ALBANY, N.Y. —Snow blowers annually cause more than 3,000 finger injuries, including amputations, with most injuries occurring when operators use their hands to clear snow from the discharge chute or debris from auger blades, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Richard Uhl, M.D., chief of the division of orthopedic surgery at Albany Medical Center, who specializes in hand surgery, said that most finger injuries due to snow blowers involve the finger tips, to the first knuckle. In most cases, the fingertip has been damaged too severely to re-attach it, he said.
“The number-one most important thing to remember is: Don’t ever stick your hand in any opening in a snow blower. Always use a stick, such as a broom handle, to clear out any snow,” said Dr. Uhl. Even if the machine appears to be turned off, never put your hand down the chute or near the intake blades, he added.
Most snow blower injuries occur when the snow is wet. The heavy, sticky snow clogs the snow blower chute and, because the motor appears to be stalled, snow blower users think it’s safe to put their hands in the chute to clean out the snow. But, Dr. Uhl explained, removing the snow clears the jammed impeller blades which then suddenly kick back into action and cause traumatic finger injuries.
According to the American Society of Surgery of the Hand, most snow blower injuries involve the middle finger of the dominant hand and happen to men whose average age is 44. However, every year approximately 600 children under the age of 18 lose a hand or an arm in a snow blower accident, according to the Amputee Coalition of America.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 350 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.