October 30, 2007 15:19 ET

Rakes and Pains

Leave Raking Injuries Behind With These Safety Tips

ROSEMONT, IL--(Marketwire - October 30, 2007) - Autumn leaves look beautiful on trees, but less so once they fall. That is because leaves on the ground mean it is time to start raking. This outdoor task is often more physically demanding than people realize, so the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that people take precautions when raking.

Even though raking does not utilize power tools or sharp blades, it can still cause injuries. According to 2006 U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission statistics, more than 76,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries related to non-powered garden tools, including rakes.

"Many people consider raking just another chore, but it requires a lot more reaching, bending and lifting than most odd jobs," says Daryll C. Dykes, MD, PhD, orthopaedic surgeon and spokesperson for the Academy. "Raking should be treated like any other vigorous exercise. People should pay close attention to their arms and backs, being careful not to reach or stretch too far."

The Academy offers the following recommendations to prevent injuries while raking:

--  With any physical activity, it is important to warm up your muscles
    for at least 10 minutes with light exercise and stretching, especially when
    it is cold outside. You should also stretch your muscles after raking to
    relieve tension and prevent soreness.
--  Use a rake that feels comfortable for your height and strength. Wear
    gloves or use rakes with padded handles to help prevent blisters.
--  Avoid using old rakes that have gotten rusty or that have loose or
    broken parts.
--  Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch out for large
    rocks, low branches, tree stumps and uneven surfaces.
--  Try to vary your movements, alternating your leg and arm positions
    often. When picking up leaves, bend at the knees, not the waist.
--  Exercise care walking on wet leaves, which can be very slippery. Avoid
    falls by wearing shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
--  Avoid overfilling leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. You
    should be able to carry bags comfortably, so make sure they aren't too
    heavy or large.
--  Do not throw the leaves over your shoulder or to the side. This requires
    a twisting motion that places undue stress on your back.

More information on exercise- and sports-related injury prevention

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