You booked that trip to Mexico with your friends six months in advance; your passport is ready, and a few weeks before you’re set to take off, you end up tripping and breaking your ankle. What do you do?
Steven Erickson, MD, specializes in internal and sports medicine at Banner – University Sports Medicine and Concussion Specialists and Banner - University Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute. He sat down with us to discuss how to travel with a broken bone.
When Is It Safe to Travel?
Broken bones are no fun to live with, especially if you have a big trip coming up. Luckily, as long as you are up for the challenge of traveling with limited mobility, Dr. Erickson said, “It is safe to travel by car or plane with a broken bone as long as the fracture is appropriately immobilized. For lower extremity fractures, travel is easier with a knee scooter instead of crutches. Patients should remember to elevate the injured extremity during and after travel to decrease swelling.”
When to Stay Home
While broken toes or fingers may be more annoying than painful, it is important to be cautious of any injury before leaving for a trip – even if is just a quick trip to the beach. Open wounds and stitches can quickly become infected, while serious injuries like a broken neck or spine can become irritated while traveling.
“Care should always be taken to avoid further trauma to the fracture site or cast when lifting luggage, etc. Lower extremity immobilization and travel can increase the incidence of lower extremity blood clots. Patients should consult with their treating physician regarding travel for ways of decreasing their risk of blood clots,” Dr. Erickson said.
What to Avoid
If you do travel with an injury, it’s important to be mindful while planning your trip. Will you need an extra airplane seat if your leg needs to remain elevated? Did you already book that snorkeling adventure? Underwater activities are particularly challenging for immobile, casted and braced bones and will likely need to be avoided.
“Patients can travel in an airplane with a broken bone and even to the beach. When a patient may be exposed to sand or water, the casted extremity should be covered with a plastic bag to prevent water exposure or sand getting under the cast which can cause skin irritation,” Dr. Erickson said.
Your injury may not need to keep you from your next great adventure. If you or a loved one has a broken bone and plans to travel, meet with a Banner physician to discuss a travel plan that will keep you healing quickly and without complications.