Put on the brakes after foot or ankle surgery

December 15, 2010

Patients recovering from a right foot injury or surgery should think twice about how soon they want to begin driving again. According to a new study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), it takes much longer to brake when the driver is wearing an immobilization device - like a splint or brace, than it does when wearing normal footwear.

Driving is important to many people's social and professional lives, so when a person's right ankle or foot must be immobilized after an injury or surgery, one of the first questions an orthopaedic surgeon hears is, "When can I start driving again?"

To answer this question, researchers measured emergency braking time in people using a brake adapted for use by the left foot, or wearing a short leg cast, a controlled ankle-motion boot, or normal footwear. The results showed that all of the devices, except for normal footwear, impaired the drivers' ability to brake quickly.

"We did not find a device that was as safe as normal footwear," says CPT Thomas Dowd, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "We only tested emergency braking situations, but it's reasonable to assume that if a person cannot stop quickly in an emergency, it may not be safe for that person to be driving."

Study details and findings:"Based on our findings," Dr. Dowd said, "we cannot recommend that any patient return to driving using a brake adapter or wearing an immobilization device on the right foot. Orthopaedic surgeons need to educate their patients about these safety concerns when discussing the best time to begin driving again."

Other relevant facts and statistics noted in the study:
-end-
Disclosure: Dr. Orr, Dr. Dowd, Dr. Rush, Dr. Hsu, Dr. Ficke, and Dr. Kirk have nothing related to this study to disclose.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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