Hand Surgeons Urge Safety with Fireworks


Chicago, IL- June 30, 2015 – The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) urges the public to leave fireworks in the hands of the professionals.

The number of firework-related injuries treated in emergency rooms in the United States has ranged from 8,500 to 9,800 since 1997; in 2011, 26% of patients were younger than age 15.

Firework-related injuries range in severity from superficial burns to complete loss of the hand and fingers.  The most common injuries are burns to the fingers, hand, and wrist (26.7%), followed by injuries to the eye (14.9%), and open injuries to the hand and wrist (6.5%).2   Other sources report that the number of burns to the fingers, hand, and arm are as high as 41%.3  Burns account for more than 50% of firework-related injuries, although Dr. Jason Ko, of the Division of Plastic Surgery and Department of Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, warns that broken bones, dislocations, and amputations can also result from a blast injury.

Because fireworks can malfunction, Dr. Ko explained that many patients are injured when fireworks explode prematurely.  To avoid this, and other injuries, hand surgeons encourage individuals to attend public fireworks displays rather than setting off fireworks near or around the home. Public displays are monitored by local fire departments to ensure safety. 

The following precautions should be taken when attending a public fireworks display:

  • Obey safety barriers and ushers.
  • Stay back a minimum of 500 feet from the launching site.
  • Resist the temptation to pick up firework debris when the display is over.  The debris may still be hot, or in some cases, the debris might be “live” and could still explode.
  • Ensure all children have adult supervision.

Dr. James Saucedo of the Hand Center of San Antonio and the University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio acknowledges that many individuals will not “settle” for a public fireworks display, although this is the safest way to enjoy fireworks.  He advises, “If a person intends to use personal fireworks, we recommend that safety precautions and manufacturer instructions are always followed.  Specifically, never hold an exploding device in your hand while igniting it, even if the device is designed to ‘shoot’ in a single direction.”  

Although it may be tempting to use sparklers both near the home and at a public fireworks display, Dr. Donald Lee of the Department of Orthopaedics at Vanderbilt University explained that sparkler accidents are the second most common type of firework-related injury.  Sparklers are accountable for approximately 15% of burns because they are slow burning and handheld.

1. Hall JR Jr. Fireworks. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association; 2013.
2. Canner JK, Haider AH, Selvarajah S, et al. US emergency department visits for fireworks injuries, 2006-2010. J Surg Res. 2014;190(1):305e311.
3. Fireworks information center: United States Consumer Product Safety Commission Website. http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/150398/Fireworks-Infographic-2015-web.pdf?epslanguage=en Published 2013. Accessed June 29, 2015.

For More Information 

To identify a local hand surgeon spokesperson in your market, please call Tara Spiess, ASSH, at 312-880-1900.  Please also visit http://www.handcare.org for more information on hand safety.

About Hand Surgeons

Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery or general surgery.  To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination.

Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder.  Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both.  Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers.  Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries, and congenital limb differences (birth defects).

Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon require surgery.  Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy, and injections.  

About the ASSH

The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is to advance the science and practice of hand and upper extremity surgery through education, research, and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. 

Tara Spiess
822 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL
Ph: 312.880.1900