Experts at the Curtis National Hand Center Urge Fireworks Safety

Leave Fireworks to the Professionals They Say—Moments of Fun Cause Devastating Injuries

June 25, 2018

Ryan Zimmerman, MD

BALTIMORE—(June 25, 2018)—Hand and extremity experts at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital’s Curtis National Hand Center encourage a festive celebration of the nation’s birthday this year, but stress a safety reminder when handling fireworks. They don’t want your business.

Each year, Curtis National Hand Center surgeons start seeing devastating hand and finger injuries even before the Fourth of July parades and celebrations begin. Legal and illegal explosive devices cause traumatic injuries including permanent damage to nerves and tendons or even loss by amputation. The result could mean multiple innovative and complex surgeries to cover open wounds, reattached digits and hands, and reestablish a functioning limb.

“A few minutes of fun from even those little firecrackers can cause injuries that permanently alter your life,” said Ryan Zimmerman, MD, attending hand surgeon at The Curtis National Hand Center. “We can reattach fingers that are intact, but sometimes the damage is so great, that there’s nothing to work with.” And often times he added, “it is the dominant hand that is affected.”

Four people died in 2016 due to recreational fireworks injuries, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,100 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments, according to the CPSC. The hands and fingers were the body parts most often injured.

While adults aged 20-24 had the highest rate of fireworks injuries, children younger than age five were particularly susceptible, with the second-highest rate of injury from fireworks.

There is no such thing as completely safe fireworks. Even sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to make lava.

“Our message is to leave fireworks to the professionals so that you can continue to enjoy the Fourth of July year after year,” Dr. Zimmerman said.

The Curtis National Hand Center experts offer these important safety tips:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children can suffer injuries from sparklers.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishaps.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Click here to learn more about The Curtis National Hand Center, or call 877-UMH-HAND for a physician referral.

About The Curtis National Hand Center

Since 1975, people all over the world have placed their hands in ours—The Curtis National Hand Center. From repairing traumatic injuries to treating repetitive motion injuries, arthritic conditions and congenital differences, our goal is to restore the patient's use of the hand, wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulder to the greatest degree possible. Our long history of experience, outstanding medical staff, and state-of-the-art facilities combine to create a treatment center that is the first choice in caring for the hand or arm, no matter how common or complex.

Today, The Curtis National Hand Center is recognized as the largest, most experienced hand center in the nation. In fact, the hand center was designated by Congress as the National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity.

About MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit, 223-bed acute care teaching hospital with a strong emphasis on cardiac care, orthopaedics, and sports medicine. With roots stemming back to 1854, MedStar Union Memorial has provided high-quality care for 160 years. As one of the region's top specialty hospitals, MedStar Union Memorial is home to: The Curtis National Hand Center, the largest hand center in the world, focused on the treatment of the hand and upper extremities; MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, a premier cardiovascular program in the mid-Atlantic, aligned with Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, the nation’s #1 heart program; and MedStar Sports Medicine, which includes the oldest hospital-based sports medicine program in Maryland (founded in 1979).  In addition, MedStar Union Memorial offers a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services including oncology, diabetes and endocrinology, general surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery and palliative care.

MedStar Union Memorial is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC). It is the first hospital in Baltimore to receive spine certification by TJC, and the first in the state of Maryland to receive advanced certification for palliative care. MedStar Union Memorial is also TJC-certified in hip and knee replacement and has been designated as a Primary Stroke Center and the Hand Trauma Center for Maryland.

MedStar Union Memorial is a proud member of MedStar Health, a non-profit, regional health care system with 10 hospitals and more than 20 other health-related services in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.

For more information, visit MedStarUnionMemorial.org.

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
410-274-1260
[email protected]


Carrie Wells
Media Relations Specialist, MedStar Health Baltimore
443-613-1569
[email protected]

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