Foot Injuries and Fast Cars: When Can I Drive with a Broken Foot?
Posted by Jenn F. on Thursday, January 9th, 2014
If you’ve recently suffered a broken foot and “live life in the fast lane,” you are likely wondering when you can resume regular activities — like driving — again. Yet, this understudied area remains a reluctant subject for doctors — with 35% of podiatrists failing to discuss driving with their injured patients, according to a study in the NY Times. As it turns out, there are no universal standards for patients recovering from broken foot injuries to safely resume driving again.
Exercise Caution When Returning to the Wheel After Injury
Accidents serve as cautionary tales to take it easy following injury and only resume regular activities when you are in truly good shape. One such accident occurred in Beaverton, Oregon this past September involving a 64-year-old man wearing a plastic walking cast.
The man’s cast reportedly got stuck on the accelerator in a New Seasons Market parking lot, causing his black HHR to plow through two trees, two parked cars, and two people. A 64-year-old man suffered minor injuries, while a 34-year-old man was treated for more serious injuries at a local hospital.
The driver was unhurt, but the man’s brother-in-law Steve Mills said, “He’s just sick about it,” because he’s normally a careful driver. “He’s always belly-aching at me about driving too fast…. he’s just really rattled,” the relative said.
Beaverton police said there are no specific laws regulating driving with a cast unless a doctor has specifically advised against it, but they look at every case to determine whether “reckless driving” charges may apply.
When Should You Drive with a Broken Foot?
Several recent studies have attempted to summarize postoperative driving guidelines, recommending:
– 4 Weeks: time needed to return to driving after right knee surgery or right hip replacement
– 6 Weeks: time needed after the cast comes off and normal walking resumes following foot fracture
– 9 Weeks: time needed to return to driving after ankle fracture
– Patients should not ever drive while wearing a cast or brace on the right leg.
Generally speaking, most NY podiatrists tell drivers they may resume their position behind the wheel when: narcotics are discontinued; the cast, boot or splint comes off; the patient feels he or she can subjectively control the vehicle; and when postoperative symptoms or complications decline.
Why Don’t Podiatrists Discuss Driving Recommendations?
Many podiatrists worry that they could be sued if they give the wrong recommendation for driving. “Legally, I would never put down in writing that ‘you’re cleared to drive,'” said Dr. David Goodwin, co-author of a driving review published in the journal Orthopedics.
Studies regarding the safety of driving with a broken foot, ankle, knee, hip, or leg are scant. Even when data is published, it usually involves computerized driving simulators, obstacle courses, and healthy volunteers wearing casts and driving automatic transmission vehicles only.
Besides, patients rarely listen to their doctors when it comes to broken foot recovery anyway. “As surgeons, we can’t clear someone for driving, but we can educate them,” explained Dr. Geoffery S. Marecek, co-author of a post-operative driving study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Dr. Marecek adds, “I tell patients, ‘No immobilization, full range of motion without pain, and then we’ll talk about it.’” A patient’s pain tolerance, medications, mobility, reaction times, and mental acuity should all factor into a customized recommendation on when to drive with a broken foot. And above all… be safe.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.