Watch those hands: it’s snow thrower season

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Snow throwers are winter-time essentials for many people in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.  But they can also be dangerous, and the injuries they cause can turn into lifelong issues.

Dr. Gregory Thomas knows with winter comes the injuries.

"Regardless of education and experience with the machine, people stick their hands where they shouldn't and injure their hands, said Dr. Thomas, an orthopaedic traumatologist at Geisinger CMC in Scranton.

He says, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are 5,000 snow thrower injuries every year in the United States, injuries that cost the nation some $400 million.  The vast majority of those injuries are human - not mechanical - error.

The problems come especially with wet, heavy snow that tends to get stuck.

"On a two-stage snow blower  there are two blades: the auger, which is the visible one people see, and the impeller, which is the invisible blade," explained Dr. Thomas, who added that it's the impeller that does most of the damage, and usually on the user's dominant hand.

"(Some of the) injuries that occur would be that the tips would be amputated off, or the tips crushed.  Usually the long and ring finger," he added.

In other words, a serious, costly, long-term problem that is very easily prevented by keeping your hands away.