Longer braking time after a foot or ankle surgery

Denial and resistance have always been the usual reaction of patients after an injury or procedure when their normal functioning and activities are being compromised. This is especially true where freedom of movement afforded by driving is concerned.

In research conducted at the Brooke Army Medical Center and the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the driving ability of patients under foot or ankle immobilization due to injury or surgery is quantified in terms of total brake-response time, reaction time and braking time. It was found that whether one is using a left-foot driving adapter (accelerator is transferred to the left of the brake pedal in automatic vehicles for the unaffected left foot to operate), wearing a short leg cast or wearing a controlled-ankle-motion boot, immobilization impaired the drivers’ ability to brake quickly. At a highway speed of 60 mph (96.6 km/hr.), a person wearing a right controlled-ankle-motion boot would travel an additional 9.2 ft. (2.8 m) during an emergency stop and 6.1 ft. (1.9 m) when wearing a short leg cast. A driver employing a left-foot driving adapter would travel 6.0 ft. (1.8 m) farther during emergency braking.

The findings suggest that the ability to drive is impaired with the inability to perform an emergency stop and that driving cannot be recommended for patients who are still under immobilization. According to survey studies, 90 percent of orthopedic surgeons would generally not recommend that a patient drive while immobilized in a right lower-extremity short leg cast. This issue has also special implications with insurance policies that do not cover accidents where the insured was still recuperating from an injury or procedure.

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