Research shows rotator cuff surgery patients can return to driving faster after procedure

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - On average, Americans spend roughly an hour each day behind the wheel.

In Southwest Virginia, Virginia Tech researchers say the ability to drive as a means of transportation is crucial.

“The area of the country we live in, driving is a big deal, if you can’t get around easily, there’s not a whole lot - we don’t have a metro system, you don’t have a lot of trains, a lot of buses in a lot of areas, and so you really need to be able to drive from point A to point B to do what you need to do in your daily life,” said Miguel Perez, a research scientist for Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

And that’s partly how new research, involving recovery time protocols, took off.

“Rotator cuff surgery is one of the most common orthopedic procedures performed and historically we’ve given people restrictions - you’re not allowed to drive for 6 weeks or you’re not allowed to lift anything above 25 pounds and those restrictions can be incredibly burdensome,” said Carilion Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Peter Apel.

So with a car equipped with cameras and other safety measures in place, data were gathered, and the results were positive.

“And what we learned is that as it turns out, people are really smart and they’re adaptable and they know when they have a perceived physical limitation and they take steps to compensate for that,” said Apel.

“Putting people in everyday driving situations, nothing extreme, they’re able to compensate for their temporary disability, maneuver, just the same as they did before the surgery,” said Perez.

It also brought down the recommended time for patients to refrain from driving from six weeks to just two weeks.

“And a month may not sound like a lot, but it’s a big deal,” said Apel.

It’s also propelling further research, all focused around patient access, for many different kinds of surgery.

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