Left Arm Splints Significantly Degrade Driving

But arm immobilization devices on either right or left appear to worsen driving performance
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Immobilization of a limb does not prevent many people from driving, but wearing an arm splint appears to have a detrimental effect on this skill, according to research published in the Oct. 6 issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Paul Y. Chong, M.D., of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, and colleagues analyzed the performance of 30 officers-in-training while they completed a drivers' course while wearing a sequence of fiberglass splints to determine if the immobilization of an arm has a detrimental effect on driving.

The researchers found a significant decrease in performance (i.e., cone-adjusted time) with left arm in an above-the-elbow thumb spica splint or in a below-the-elbow splint. Forward-only course section analyses revealed poorer performance in all splints; the worst performance was in those wearing a left arm above-the-elbow thumb spica splint, which was perceived to have the highest difficulty and lowest safety. The authors concluded this was likely due to visual and spatial constraints with a left-sided driver seat.

"Driving performance as measured with a standardized track and scoring system was significantly degraded with splint immobilization of the left arm. Further studies are required to determine the effect of arm immobilization on normal driving conditions," the authors write.

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