Why I Prefer To Use A Shovel


You may not want to read this if you’re eating.

I prefer shoveling snow because it doesn’t cause pollution and it gives you an aerobic workout to boot. But that isn’t all. I’ve also developed a healthy respect for what a snowblower can do to human appendages. I’ve seen a few too many mangled hands from snowblowers in my career.

This unfortunate gentleman was cleaning ice out of a jammed snowblower with his hand when all of a sudden the ice broke free and the snowblower grabbed his glove … and the tips of two fingers. The tips of his index and middle fingers are no longer present on this x-ray of his hand.


Basic snowblower safety:

Don’t leave a snowblower running unattended.
Turn a snowblower off if you’re going to try to clean it. Then use a broom handle or a stick – not your hands.
Keep your hands and feet away from the spinning blades. Blades can keep spinning several seconds after the machine has been turned off.
Watch where the chute is pointing – snowblowers can turn rocks or pieces of wood into missiles.
Don’t let kids run snowblowers. They aren’t toys.

By the way, they came in with the tip of one of this poor guy’s fingers a little while later – tendon and muscle still attached.


In the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus: Hey … lets be careful out there!


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  2. Every year we see these snowblower vs hand cases. Maybe the survivors need to go on a lecture circuit afterwards to raise public awareness of this issue? That tendon is amazing though – never seen ’em yanked out like that, usually severed as Dr. Bates suggests.

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  4. Interesting how you can tell what season it is in the ED just by the types of accidents you see. We have gotten our share of the snowblower accidents. after a private doc came down to see one of his pts he heard was there because he lost some fingers to a snowblower said the same thing to me that you just said. He said to use a broom handle or some other object and never your hand because there is a spring reaction once the snow is removed.

    We have never had a snowblower but I still have repeated that to husband and sons just in case they use one. Older son started calling me voice of doom because I would see people injured in accidents that could’ve been prevented and then caution them accordingly. Honestly, sometimes they are things I wouldn’t have thought about if I hadn’t known about it through the ED. pts would invariably tell me that they felt so stupid (about the accident) and I would tell them that no one plans an “accident” and that is just what they are…accidents.

    FYI…maybe I need to go open an anatomy book which admittedly isn’t my forte and dare I admit to this …o.k. I will. I was about to read this post and as I was scrolling down to see how many comments on this post when I noticed the pic for the next post. I thought “Sperm…he’s doing a post about sperm?” and then I saw the fingernail and the blood and the fact that it wasn’t translucent. It was a quick glance.

    The tendon pulled out like that…would that have hurt even more than if only the fingers sliced? OW-W-W-W-W-W! 🙁

  5. And the lesson continues…I just called my 19 year old son over to show him the pic and at first he didn’t realize what it was then he recoiled and said “UGH! WHY would you show that to me?” If it’s true a pic is worth a thousand words than I think it is safe to say he will use an object to clear any snowblower in the future.

  6. Not like I need to point this out, but Dude’s finger looks like a giant, mutant sperm if you’re not looking that closely.

    I think you’ve been hanging out at SeaSpray’s blog too much lately …

  7. I once wrote a book review for “The Mutilated Hand” (ISBN: 9781560534464). Perhaps we should suggest a new chapter for their next edition?

  8. Cool. Cool. Cool.

    I saw an injury like that after a rig accident one time…cool stuff.

    A doctor friend of mine did all his medical training in Chicago…he thinks there is some kind of connection between shoveling snow and heart attacks…what do you think?

  9. Nurse K…I am relieved to know that I am not the only one who had that visual! Bloggers remorse was setting upon me. I just thought it was greatly magnified until I took the second look. 🙂

  10. Whitecoat: There’s nothing next to the finger to show scale, how many inches of tendon is that?

    It was an extensor tendon – my estimate is 10-12 inches. WC

  11. I always take the stairs rather than an elevator for the same reason…it’s healthier, and it requires no power source that can be traced back to polluting energy sources. Although the risk of injury is probably increased. Oh well.

    Oh, and following the same logic, I never use automatic doors either.

  12. OOOOOOuuuuuucccchhhhhyyyyyyy!!!!!

    I’ve seen a couple of crushed fingers but never as clean a job as that.
    Being from Sydney we don’t have snow so no snow blowers but the amount of lawnmower vs fingers fights are more normal, with simliar results.

  13. Whoa. That’s a clean looking cut.

    I used to enjoy the aerobic workout too. Now that I live in a condo I don’t have the pleasure of shoveling, unless it’s just to free my own car from a particularly heavy snowfall.

  14. I was, in fact, eating as I checked that out. Fortunately, gross things rarely affect my appetite. I did exclaim, “Oh NO! That’s BAD NEWS!” and scared the dogs, who were sleeping under the table.

  15. Yes, safety is always important, imagine two finger just gone like that, it will affect our daily work like carry things etc. The tips you provided are very useful. Merry Christmas to you.

  16. I like to shovel when it snows, good excuse for excercise. However, living in the Buffalo NY area we can get lots of snow all at once so it’s very tough to shovel an about 100 foot driveway with a circular driveway added at the top by the house when it’s 8 inches or more of wet snow. That’s when the snowblower comes out, but it’s always safety first. Eyewear and turning off the blower if something gets stuck in the blades.

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  18. ACK. That is nasty. But you should be fine if you do things properly. Where I live there is many many feet of thick heavy snow .. so unless you are Mr. Universe with all those muscles you need to use a snowblower. I don’t understand why people use them if they only have inches of snow. I’ve seen it on tv and that is really weird.

  19. OUCH!!! Poor guy.
    Suddenly I’m feeling thankful that I’m living in a country that doesn’t need the use of a snowblower. :S

  20. God bless texas 🙂
    i’ve never seen more than a half inch of snow and i’m fine with it. we excercise by sweating buckets in the summer 🙂
    and the spring… fall… and winter too. lol.

  21. You asked for your patient’s permission before you put his X-ray up, right? Or do I have to go combing the internet for my missing body parts that my physician thought my make an intersting post on his blog?
    What was that song from the 80s? “Everytime you go away, you take a part of me with you. . .”

  22. Thank you for abandoning the Earth-destroying carbon-villian snow-blower in favor of the better method. Your contribution to the climate-change cause is to be applauded. I wish more had your courage.

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  24. I bet there are still more serious injuries each year caused by improper shoveling than improper snowblower usage. Bend with your knees, not your back! Stop and go inside if you start to feel faint or have chest or arm pain!

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  26. Snowblowers, like any tools, are a part of life. If you live in the north, you have a better chance of dying from heart failure while shoveling snow, then you do of loosing your fingers.

    You tell your grandpa; “Poppy, stop polluting, and don’t risk loosing your fingers from being stupid. Just use a shovel. That way you don’t pollute. And you can only loose your fingers from frostbite from BEING OUTSIDE SO LONG SHOVELING YOUR WEAK LITTLE HEART OUT!”

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