Raking Leaves & Injuries
Did you know that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 12,000 Americans were treated for injuries related to leaf raking last year. Whether you exercise regularly or if you are unaccustomed to physical activity, raking can lead to strains of the wrists, back, neck and shoulders according to American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Raking involves a number of different, potentially harmful body movements including twisting, bending, lifting and reaching.
Before you tackle ridding your yard of all the brown brittle leaves that were just recently blanketing your landscape with a barrage of bountiful colors, we recommend you take the following precautions to help minimize your risk of sustaining an injury:
- Make sure your rake is the proper height and weight for you. If it’s too short, you could strain your back and if it’s too heavy it will put added strain on your neck and shoulders
- Start slowly and pace yourself as you want to be sure not to overexert yourself
- Try to keep a straight back and turn your whole body to avoid twisting your back. Use your legs to shift your weight instead of your back. Avoid throwing leaves over the shoulder or to the side, as this twisting motion can also strain the back.
- Use short strokes instead of long ones to cut down the risk of over extension injuries
- Try to vary your movements so you can avoid excessive stress on one muscle group
- Bend at the knees and squat rather than at the waist to pick up your heavy piles of leaves and when lifting garbage bags or bins
- When you choose to rake leaves is a major factor in reducing your chance of injury. Aim to rake leaves when they are dry, as damp leaves are much heavier to move. Additionally, try to tackle the job earlier in the season. Cold temperatures will also make muscles and tendons tighten up leaving you more susceptible to injury, so aim for warmer temperatures and adequate stretching before raking