CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- Hudson Valley Hospital Center is asking residents to be careful when using their snowblowers.
Dr. Ari Mayerfield of the hospital's Hand Center said that each year he sees patients who suffer from a variety of injuries sustained from snowblowers.
“Due to the improper handling of these machines, patients suffer from fingertip injuries, fractures, lacerations and amputated digits,’’ said Mayerfield, a surgeon who specializes in injuries to the hand and upper extremity.
Mayerfield works with hand therapists at the hospital’s Center for Rehabilitation to help those injured return to normal function. Mayerfield said he would prefer to see people avoid injuries to start with and that a majority of injuries from snowblowers are caused when people try to clear clogs in the exit chute without turning off the machine, according to a release.
“When snow becomes clogged in the exit chute of the machine, it causes a jam," he said. "The operator will then inspect the blower, and this is when the majority of injuries occur. The operator's hand will come in contact with the rotating blades while using his/her hand to clear the snow."
Mayerfield suggested that snowblower users remember the following tips:
- Turn off the machine
- Wait for a minute to give the blades time to stop rotating
- Keep your hands clear of the exit chute and blades
- Never use your hands to clear the snow - use a stick to clear the clogged chute
- Keep snowblower safety shields in place
- Never allow children to use the snowblower
Nefretiri Butcher, an occupational therapist with the hospital's Hand Center, said even those who use low-tech snow-removing equipment are subject to injuries of the hand and back if they don’t take proper precautions. She suggests that those shoveling snow following these suggestions:
- Shovel fresh snow: Fresh powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety.
- Push the snow as you shovel: It's easier on your back than lifting the snow out of the way.
- Don't pick up too much at once: Use a light shovel (e.g. aluminum). Use a small shovel, or fill only one-fourth or one-half of a large one.
- Lift with your legs bent, not your back. Keep your back straight. By bending and "sitting" into the movement, you'll keep your spine upright and less stressed. Your shoulders, torso and thighs can do the work for you.
Those with a hand or wrist issue, either routine or emergency, can call Mayerfield at 914-293-8700. Those needing hand therapy should call the Hand Center at 914-734-3251.
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