Hooray! We’re going to Palm Springs for a weekend at a friend’s place! Boo! My 11-year-old broke his elbow during his first-ever game of pads-free backyard tackle football! “I knew it was a bad idea,” he whimpered as we sat in the ER. The pain meds helped his elbow, but they didn’t allay his disappointment at the thought of not being able to take his cast (along with the rest of him) into the pool out in the desert. The poor guy had suffered enough. I started looking for a cast cover that would let him jump in.
San Diego Orthopedic in National City (619-477-7075) sold a cast cover made by DMI for $8.95. “It’s pretty much a blue plastic bag that goes over your arm,” said the saleslady. “It comes with a band so that you can tie it off at the top. We have another for $23.95. It’s a clear plastic bag, but there’s a rubber ring at the top that seals against your skin.” She noted, however, that neither was cut out to protect a cast during pool-time fun. “They’re just for showering or bathing.”
Eric’s Medical Supply in Linda Vista (619-298-9640) offered something more promising: the CastGuard. “It’s like a big yellow tube-shaped balloon,” said Eric. “You stick your cast in there and jump in the shower,” and the tight rubber opening keeps the water out. “If it breaks, they’ll replace it, and it says on the package that it can be used for swimming. We have them for full- and half-arm casts and for full- and half-legs. The cost is $19.95 for all sizes.”
That sounded good, but I kept looking. Jose at Triad Medical Supply in La Mesa (619-469-4421) offered the DryPro Cast Cover “...for keeping the cast dry while swimming. It’s a blue rubber tube, and it comes with a handheld pump that’s attached to a valve on the cover. You squeeze the pump, and it pumps the air out of the cover, creating a vacuum seal around the limb. To remove, you just run your finger under the edge of the cover and make a little channel of air. Then you can slide it right off. Prices range from the mid-$30s to the mid-$40s, depending on the size and the limb.” Bingo.
Later, I spoke with Tim Ellis at DryCorps, which makes the DryPro cover. “The cast cover is made of surgical rubber,” he said. “It’s really stretchy — stretchy enough to fit over the cast and still compress back down at the top so that it seals your arm or leg when you use the vacuum pump. The pump basically sucks all the air out from around the limb and cast. It’s a matter of physics. It’s waterproof because if there’s no air in there, there’s no way for any water to get in there. Being underwater actually makes the seal even stronger because of the water pressure around the outside. The seal is so good that you can’t even pull the cover off. It’s perfect for an active swimmer.”
Further, he said, “The material is really rugged. We promise that it will last you 90 days with active use. But we have people call and say, ‘I’ve had one for ten years, and now I need a new one.’ Chlorine won’t affect it. In fact, we use chlorine to remove free latex from the rubber so that it can be used by people who are allergic to latex — unless they’re extremely sensitive. Soap won’t affect it either, so you can take a bath with it. Our only suggested maintenance is that if you sweat in it, turn it inside out, rinse it, and let it dry. Really, the only bane of its existence are ladies’ fingernails. Sometimes, if they grab the edge and pull straight up, the fingernail will catch on the rubber and cut a cookie-bite shape out of the edge.” But even then, there’s hope. “If what’s left still covers the cast cover, you can trim it straight across the edge. As long as it still seals, it will work.”
The covers come in large or small in the half-arm or half-leg cast. “Sizing is a simple measurement. If the circumference of your leg is between 10 and 13 inches, you wear a small. If it’s above 13 inches, you wear a large.” The full-arm and full-leg covers come in four sizes, extra-small through large. “Again, size is based on the circumference of your limb.”