Key Differences Between a Waterproof Cast and a Standard Cast

As if having a broken bone isn’t enough of a pain, having to wear a cast that must be kept dry just adds to the nuisance. Having to skip swimming and other water activities, dealing with awkward covers and plastic bags in the rain, and not being able to comfortably bathe are all just little annoyances that make the healing process a bit more stressful. However, some injuries enable the patient to forego the standard cast and opt for waterproof casts instead.

Standard vs Waterproof: What’s the Difference?

All casts are made of a soft inner lining that touches the skin and a hard outer shell to hold the bone in place as it heals. Traditional cast padding is not waterproof. Made of cotton or synthetic fibers, it absorbs water (and sweat!), gets soaked, and takes a long time to dry. Though the cotton feels comfortable when dry, its propensity to hold liquid makes it susceptible to bad odors and skin maceration. The outer shell, which historically has been made of plaster which breaks down in water is now typically made of waterproof fiberglass for its strength and durability.
A waterproof cast liner, by contrast, does not absorb water. The cast padding is made of a microporous material that can withstand both the swimming pool and the bathtub. The waterproof casting liner allows most of the water to drain from the cast, with the remainder air drying within about an hour. The outer shells of waterproof casts are composed of fiberglass, which also does not absorb water.

Pros & Cons

While waterproof seems to be the easy choice when confronted with cast options, there are a few downsides to them. They are more expensive than traditional casts, so checking with your insurance provider is recommended. Also, “waterproof” may be a bit misleading as your arm or leg will still get wet under the cast. “Quick-drying” might be more accurate. However, they certainly allow for more freedom and comfort during the healing period. They may not be perfect, but the technology certainly makes recovering from an injury easier to deal with.