Expert Safety Tips on Playing Sports and Mowing the Lawn

Expert Safety Tips on Playing Sports and Mowing the Lawn

Find out what our experts have to say about staying injury-free.

Q: We bought a new house with a nice front and back yard. My husband is excited about cutting the lawn and is off buying a new push mower. I don’t want him cutting off his foot. Should I be concerned? —Abigail N., Catskill, NY

A: No and yes. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), since their federal safety standards for power mowers were instituted back in 1982, the number of annual lawn mower injuries has been reduced by half. However, even though lawn mowers are much safer (make sure your husband buys one that says “Meets CPSC blade safety requirements”), injuries still happen.

A new study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that lawn mower injuries continue to send more than 80,000 Americans to the emergency department every year.

The most common type of lawn mower–inflicted injury is, of course, laceration. So remember:

  • The American Society for Surgery of the Hand suggests wearing gloves, goggles and hearing protection when you mow. And always wear sturdy closed-toed shoes.
  • Don’t cut the grass when it’s wet. Wet clippings clog the blades and the discharge chute, and that’s typically when hands reach in.
  • Clear the yard of potential flying objects, such as branches, stones and other debris before you mow.

The number two cause of mower moaning? Muscle sprain or strain. So make sure you stay hydrated, maybe do runner’s stretches (see before mowing and take a break every 20 to 30 minutes. Not being fatigued will reduce your chance of other injuries too.

And whenever you mow, wear long pants tucked into your socks and spray them with DEET to ward off tick and mosquito bites. The CDC says disease cases from insect bites increased from more than 27,000 in 2014, to 96,075 in 2016.

Q: I just read that female high school athletes have fewer injuries when their schools have an athletic trainer. My daughter goes to a small local high school, plays soccer and basketball and we don’t have one. What does it take or how much does it cost to recruit an athletic trainer? —Beth A., West Lafayette, IN

A: First of all, if you are in the market for athletic trainers (ATs), make sure you interview and hire only those who are board certified. That means that they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, passed the BOC (Board of Certification) exam and are a member of the National Athletic Training Association (NATA). At the high school level, a certified AT earns between 40 and 65K per year. They more than earn their keep with the number of injuries they help prevent.

A recent study found recurrent injury rates were six times higher on girls’ soccer teams and nearly three times higher among girls’ basketball teams in schools without ATs. Furthermore, girls’ high school sports that have an AT on the coaching staff have less overall injuries, reduced recurrent injury rates and superior identification and management of athletes’ concussions.

As NATA explains, certified ATs “are licensed healthcare professionals who work with coaches and athletes to apply evidence-based injury prevention strategies, and they are able to recognize and manage injuries when they happen, which may reduce severity or complications.” Plus, when kids are well-trained, they’re in better shape and they compete better. Translation: Healthy teams win more (!), and athletic kids who get good training can keep playing for a lifetime.

By the way, if your daughter’s school budget is an issue, here’s an idea (everyone across the country can try the same kind of solution). Purdue University’s Department of Health and Kinesiology is in your town. They teach undergraduates to become athletic trainers, public health specialists, and health and fitness providers. See if you can work something out with an internship program that would give college students (supervised by a certified professional from the college) work experience and help protect your daughter and her teammates at the same time.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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