Put on the brakes after foot or ankle surgery

Dec 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 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:

  • Compared with an individual wearing normal footwear, an individual traveling at a highway speed of 60 miles per hour (mph) (96.6 km/hr) would travel an additional 9.2 feet (2.8 m) during emergency braking when wearing a right lower-extremity controlled-ankle-motion boot.
  • A driver wearing a right lower-extremity short leg cast would travel an additional 6.1 feet (1.9 m) before coming to an emergency stop.
  • A driver using a left-foot braking adapter would travel an additional 6.0 feet (1.8 m).
  • At a community-driving speed of 35 mph (56.3 km/hr), these same individuals would travel an additional 5.4 feet (1.6 m), 3.6 ft (1.1 m), and 3.5 feet (1.1 m), respectively. These changes in distance traveled might represent the difference between being involved in or avoiding a collision in an emergency setting.
  • The effect of immobilization devices on fine braking scenarios such as navigating a curve or driving in stop-and-go traffic is unknown, but according to study authors, it is likely to be greater.
  • The test subjects were healthy adults who had not recently undergone surgery or sustained an injury, so their braking response times are likely to be somewhat better than individuals having discomfort or other symptoms due to their medical condition.
"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:

  • The ability to perform an emergency stop is essential for safe driving and can be represented by total brake-response time, reaction time, and braking time.
  • Survey studies indicated that more than 90 percent of orthopaedic surgeons would generally not recommend that a patient drive while immobilized in a right lower-extremity short leg cast.
  • Under the terms of most insurance policies, the insurer is not obligated to cover accidents in which the driver was still recovering from an earlier injury or operation.

Explore further: What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New brake light system could mean fewer collisions

Mar 23, 2007

A dynamic brake light system that enables rear lights on a leading vehicle to contract or expand during hard braking could help lessen how often rear-end automobile collisions occur, says new research from the University ...

Chronic ankle pain may be more than just a sprain

May 01, 2009

Ankle sprains are a common injury after a fall, sudden twist or blow to the ankle joint. Approximately 40 percent of those who suffer an ankle sprain will experience chronic ankle pain, even after being treated ...

Wonder Wedge on Wheels — Braking Without Hydraulics

Sep 26, 2005

With its EWB (Electronic Wedge Brake), Siemens is aiming for a revolution in braking system technology for passenger cars. Compared to today’s hydraulic brakes, the EWB is more efficient, responds faster, ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

11 hours ago

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.