Every year, an estimated 1.5 million people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for head injuries and nearly 12,000 are treated for neck fractures. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), thousands of these injuries are tied to sports and recreational activities. Not so obvious, however, is that common and often seemingly harmless products found in backyards, gardens, garages and home workshops also contribute to these injuries.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tracks product-related injuries through its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Several of the true-life cases reported by CPSC include a 15-month-old girl who fell off the swing set in her backyard, suffering a hematoma and skull fracture; a 4-year-old girl playing in the sprinkler who fell, hit her head and sustained a hematoma; a 13-year-old boy fixing a lawn mower with wrenches who fell on the mower deck, and suffered facial lacerations and a concussion; and a 62-year-old male who fell off a ladder while painting, incurring a skull fracture and brain contusion.
The following 20 outdoor-related categories contributed to the highest number of estimated head injuries treated in 2007 (sports not included):
- Ladders, all types: 17,124
- Porches, balconies, open-sided floors: 16,124
- Swings and swing sets: 10,727
- Fences, fence posts: 10,152
- Workshop (power and hand tools, supplies): 9,666
- Monkey bars, other playground climbing equipment: 7,630
- Trampolines: 7,075
- Slides, sliding boards, see saws, teeter boards: 6,565
- Playground equipment (unspecified or other): 5,017
- Garage doors: 2,236
- All lawn mowers: 2,002
- Decorative yard equipment: 1,968
- Camping equipment (excl. trailers): 1,666
- Garden hoses, nozzles, sprinklers: 1,620
- Greenhouse or gardening supplies: 1,428
- Amusement attractions (including rides): 1,417
- Unpowered garden tools: 1,410
- Hammocks: 1,358
- Pruning and trimming equipment: 907
- Tool sheds: 898
The majority of these injuries can be prevented by taking a few simple safety measures. AANS suggests the following outdoor injury prevention tips:
- Inspect and remove debris from walkways, driveways, porches, and yards.
- Inspect and remove debris from lawns before mowing or gardening.
- Store outdoor equipment and tools properly.
- Make sure that ladders are stable and secure before using them.
- Do not use broken equipment or tools.
- Install outdoor handrails if elderly or frail.
- Do not let children engage in activities inappropriate for their age.
- Supervise younger children at all times.
- Do not let children use playgrounds with hard surface grounds.
- Do not dive in above ground pools or water less than 12 feet deep.
- Wear helmets for all wheeled sports and powered recreational vehicles.
AANS has more information on injury prevention online at http://www.neurosurgerytoday.org, under Patient Safety Tips.