When you break your foot or ankle, you're going to be in pain. You also may worry about mobility. How will you walk around? Will you be able to work? Or even get out of bed?
We've also seen lots of discussions about the legality of driving when your foot is in a boot or cast. Most of the answers contained in the article basically led back to this point. It really depends on what your doctor says. Now, we're no legal experts and don't pretend to be. But, with that in mind, let's examine the factors that are in play with any foot fracture. These are what your podiatrist in Houston uses to decide if it's safe for you to drive after breaking your foot or ankle.
Types of Foot Fractures
The first factor we consider is the severity of your injury. If you have an unstable or displaced foot fracture, you may need surgery. In some cases, we will need to stabilize your fracture with a screw. And, even though the FDA just approved biodegradable screws for stabilizing broken bones, this procedure is a big one. So, after surgery, you won't be driving for several days, if not longer. Regardless of which foot you've broken, you'll need to recover for a bit before getting back behind the wheel.
But what if you have a stable fracture? Or the kind of hairline fracture we call a stress fracture? In these cases, the affected foot will make a difference. And so will the way we immobilize your injury. Because, in some cases, it could be perfectly safe for you to drive. But in other instances, it would be very dangerous.
Can you Drive with a Foot Cast?
This is another very common question. Unfortunately, there’s no one answer. There are some clear no-nos, of course: if your right foot is in a cast or brace, you absolutely should not drive. And that means you should expect to find other forms of transportation for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
Even after we remove your cast, though, don’t assume that you’ll be able to drive immediately. Why is that the case? Well, after weeks of immobilization, you'll have lost quite a bit of strength in your foot and/or ankle. As a result, you’ll want to wait until your walking has returned to normal before even attempting to drive. You may also want to engage in physical therapy to help that strength return, and to restore your natural gait.
Can you Drive with a Left Foot Fracture?
What if it’s not your driving foot that’s in a cast or walking boot? Here, again, the answer is a bit murky: you may be able to operate a car safely, but then again, you might not be. You see, adding a lot of bulk to your left foot or ankle does impact the way your body moves on your car's pedals. So, when you've injured your left foot or ankle, we decide driving safety on a case by case basis.
But how can we know if you're safe to drive when your left foot or ankle is broken? Well, the only safe way to test out your readiness in this type of instance is to practice driving. But do it in an empty parking lot, where the stakes are low if you're reflexes aren't up to speed.
During this test, look at a few factors to know if you're safe to hit the real roads. First, make sure the cast does not seem to be affecting your ability to brake or apply the gas pedal in a timely manner. Next, make sure your pain levels aren’t bad enough to distract you. If you're fine in both those areas? It is likely that you will be safe behind the wheel but, of course, there are no guarantees.
Evaluating a Broken Foot: Put Your Recovery First
After breaking your foot or ankle, there's lots to worry about. But here at Tanglewood Foot Specialists, our biggest worry is making sure you get a full recovery. In the shortest time possible.
To help you heal, we want you to come in for an x-ray as soon as you suspect an injury. This will help us get you a swift diagnosis, and start your recovery immediately. It will also keep you from walking on a broken foot, and making your injury even worse.
Once we know the type of fracture you're dealing with, we'll give you a tailored treatment plan. Then, when we know you're on the path to recovery, we'll start talking about lifestyle factors.
In this conversation, we'll review the activities that will and won't be safe for you. That will include all the ways you move: walking, exercising and driving with a broken foot.
Considering all the factors we discussed today, we'll give you a list of dos and don'ts for your recovery. And if we clear you for driving? We still need you to double-check yourself every time you get behind the wheel.
Why is that the case? When you are driving with a painful injury like a broken foot or ankle, you must always be aware of your mental acuity. That's true even if you are doing so after we've removed your cast. You see, even if your injury doesn’t directly affect your ability to drive, it can impact other factors that keep you safe behind the wheel. So, if you’re not sleeping well because of your pain level, it may not be safe for you to get behind the wheel. And that's regardless of your physical ability to do so.
When you’ve broken a bone in your foot or ankle, you’ll obviously be concerned about your mobility. But you must always put safety before concerns about you daily inconveniences. Only you can decide when you’re really ready to drive after an injury like this. But as your Houston podiatrist, I hope you’ll involve me in the conversation so we can keep you safe during and after your recovery period. And if you're just not sure about whether it's safe? Err on the side of caution. But also feel free to give us a call, or make an appointment to come in and talk things over.