07/20/2012 01:54 pm ET

Farm Accidents 2.5 More Likely To Require Amputation Than Any Other Industry

farm amputation

Farmers who are injured on the job require amputation 11 percent of the time, two and a half times more likely than in any other field.

Now, findings by Northwestern University published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology suggest that although most amputations involve fingers or toes, protheses for hands, arms, legs and feet aren't durable or adaptive enough for individuals who return to work on the farm. Options that are available are often times unaffordable.

A public statement released via EurekaAlert! gives more insight:

"There are lot of issues and challenges to farming with a prosthesis," said Stefania Fatone, research associate professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Feinberg and corresponding author of the study. "They often need to climb ladders and silos, lift bags of feed and seed and walk on uneven terrain, in all kinds of weather conditions. Also, a dairy farmer may have very different needs than a corn farmer or cattle rancher."

In 2010, Amputee Coalition's newsletter In Motion noted that 2,400 people in the agricultural field require amputations each year:

Farmers who have suffered amputations from farm injuries say most often that getting in a hurry and not following safety rules cost them their limb. Adhering to strict safety precautions would greatly reduce the number of amputations among agricultural workers each year.

The Northwestern study notes several areas in which existing prosthetic options have proven problematic, according to interviews with amputee farmers. Notably, many study participants said they'd fallen or received secondary injuries because of using their prosthesis. Breakage from exposure to weather, dirt and extreme heat and cold also proved serious issues.

Amputations are costly for farmers who often times don't have insurance. AgrAbility, a service run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that hospitals could conservatively charge $500 to $1000 a day for their services, and prosthetics can run anywhere from $15,000 to more than $20,000.