Any sports activity comes with the risk of fracture and injury, along with others such as serious sprains or ligament tears, that requires casting. As a sports medicine specialist, we spend more than our fair share of time applying casts to various limbs and joints to properly position and stabilize the injury to ensure healing and comfort during the healing process.
What does casting mean?
Casting is a method used to provide rigid immobilization to an injured part of the body, encasing anything from a broken big toe to a fractured ulna. The orthopedic cast works as a shell to stabilize the anatomical structures underneath it.
The ability to properly apply a cast is a very specialized skill, one that takes both training and practice. There is a lot to consider when strategizing cast placement such as the health of the skin and soft tissue, along with the location of the injury. In some cases, a cast may not be the best choice for immobilization and a splint might be more practical.
Why is a cast necessary?
A cast does two things. It provides stability to the injured elements like bone fragments or a joint and the cast protects that area from further trauma. When you have a broken foot, for example, even just walking on it can cause more injury. Left without proper immobilization, the sharp edges would move up and down with every step causing more trauma to the foot. A proper casting secures those edges so the whole foot can heal.
What goes into making a cast?
The doctor and his staff start by covering the injured site with a stockinette the same length as the cast to protect the skin. Next, soft cotton padding is rolled around the stockinette to provide further skin protection and to create pressure on the fracture to help with healing.
The plaster or fiberglass material is wet when wrapped around the cotton and this is what creates the shell that protects your limb. It will start to feel rigid after about 15 minutes but it actually takes longer for the cast to fully set. If it is a plaster cast, it might actually take up to two days to finishing drying.
How is the cast applied?
A cast is usually made from either plaster or fiberglass bandages. Plaster is a bit old-school these days, so fiberglass material tends to be more popular. It’s lighter and dries much faster than the conventional plaster casts.There are advantages to the plaster material, though. Fiberglass tends to be difficult to mold, whereas plaster is flexible and shapes easily, so it fits snuggly.