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Kids and lawnmowers are a dangerous combination. Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Gerard Cush, chair of Foot and Ankle Surgery at Geisinger, learned that the hard way as a 4-year-old.

“I was trying to get my grandfather’s attention while he was mowing the lawn,” he explains. “He couldn’t see me. Couldn’t hear me. He had no idea I was there. He was concentrating on getting around a fence post, the mower lurched, and he ran over my foot. I lost two toes that day and spent the next six weeks in the hospital.”

Dr. Cush’s stay in the hospital inspired him to become a doctor himself, and later to specialize in orthopaedics. “I wanted to help people the way I was helped,” he says. “As I got older and my bones grew with no place for them to go, more surgeries were required.

Having been through the experience helps me relate to my patients who are going through the same things.

How to prevent lawnmower injuries

But even more than helping adults and children who have experienced accidents with lawnmowers, Dr. Cush would like to help people avoid those accidents in the first place. And he has some tips to help them do just that:

  • Don’t let kids ride on a mower with you.
  • Don’t let kids play on the lawn while you are mowing.
  • Clear lawn of debris, rocks and toys before you start mowing.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and glasses or goggles.
  • Don’t listen to music, use the phone or text while mowing.
  • Kids under 12 should not use a push mower.
  • Kids under 16 should not use a riding mower.
  • Don’t drink and mow.
  • Don’t leave mower unattended with motor running.
  • Don’t remove the mower’s safety guard or shields.
  • Don’t cut wet grass.
  • Don’t add fuel when the engine is running or still hot.
  • Don’t touch blades with hands or feet, even if motor is off.
  • Use a stick or broom handle to dislodge debris in blades — and only when motor is not running.

“I’ve seen the results of some horrific lawnmower accidents,” says Dr. Cush. “I was lucky. I only lost two small toes. I could still run and play sports. It could have been a lot worse. I urge everyone to take lawnmower safety seriously — I don’t want to see any of you in my office this summer.”

Next steps:

Orthopaedic surgeon Gerard Cush, MD, stands in front of his lawnmower at home.

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