Charles Bee website photo

Grandfather joins trial of eco-friendly cast after breaking wrist

Date: 17 May 2018

A grandfather who wore an environmentally friendly wooden cast as part of an NHS study after breaking his wrist has urged others to participate in research.

Charles Bee of Charlbury, Oxfordshire, took part in a study comparing two casts at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital after falling off a chair and breaking his wrist in September 2017.

Mr Bee spoke ahead of Sunday’s International Clinical Trials Day (20 May), an annual drive to encourage the public to participate in health research.

Fibreglass is the most commonly used casting material in the UK for the treatment of broken wrists, however it is composed of non-biodegradable materials.

Also, broken bones often become displaced as swelling reduces and rigid fibreglass casts sometimes need to be replaced every couple of weeks to account for this. The biodegradable wooden cast can be removed and remoulded when heated up, so does not need to be replaced with new material.

The Woodcast study - supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - is looking at whether the wooden cast is a comfortable alternative to a fibreglass cast for holding broken wrist bones in place.

The grandfather-of-five, 72, was standing on a chair and attempting to put out an oil lamp in his home when he fell and broke his wrist.

Mr Bee said: “I fell off a chair which I shouldn’t have been standing on in the first place. One or two people told me I must have been inebriated, but I just fell off the chair, end of story.

“Funnily enough, there was no pain from the fracture itself except my wrist expanded in size.”

The next day Mr Bee visited his GP, who advised him to attend A&E at Witney Community Hospital for an x-ray.

He said: “I went to hospital, I had an x-ray which confirmed I broke my wrist and was given a fibreglass cast. Afterwards, I attended the fracture clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital and I was asked if I wanted to try a new wooden splint as part of a clinical trial.

“What made me want to take part in the trial, one pure and simple reason, was everybody should put themselves forward for us to move things on.

“There’s got to be people that are prepared to move things forward and this is one of the things I wanted to do because it looked lightweight and that was a major asset for me.”

Patients attending the John Radcliffe Hospital were asked to take part in the University of Oxford study - which closed in March 2018 - and were randomly allocated to receive either a fibreglass cast or the wooden cast, to compare the two.

Participants were given x-rays before the cast is applied and after removal at five weeks. They completed online questionnaires weekly until cast removal and again three months after injury to see how well they recover.

Mr Bee said that he benefited from having the wooden cast, as the study team were able to split it along the middle so it could be removed in case of airport security checks.

He visited stepson Nicholas Smith in Beijing, China three weeks after his injury, followed by a trip to see his daughter Alyson Bee in Sydney, Australia.

Mr Bee said: “It was quite comfortable. It solved a problem. The splint being removable enabled me to take it off if needed and shower without it which for me personally was a big advantage.

“My six weeks of being in a cast was up when I flew into Sydney. I removed it when I could and then I was I was back to driving. It wasn’t easy, my wrist got tired and it still does get tired but that’s got nothing to do with the splint, it’s to do with me.”

Mr Bee said about taking part in research: “As far as I’m concerned, you should do it. The major help for me was it was light and I was able to remove it as I travelled.

“The study team were efficient and they cared, which was the important thing. I think they did a damn good job.”

Mr Stephen Gwilym, the study’s chief investigator at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, said: “Woodcast has theoretical advantages in terms of patient comfort and environmental cost.

“We hope that Woodcast will improve comfort for patients, be more environmentally friendly through using recycled wood, and reduce treatment costs if it can be re-modelled for the duration of treatment rather than multiple cast applications.”

International Clinical Trials Day is held every 20 May to celebrate the anniversary of the first clinical trial by James Lind in 1747 into the causes of scurvy on board the HMS Salisbury.

Participating in health research helps develop new treatments, improve the NHS and save lives. Patients are encouraged to ask their doctor about research opportunities and view trials seeking volunteers at The UK Clinical Trials Gateway at

An open day will be held on from 10am to 2pm on Tuesday 22 May at the Warneford Hospital, Oxford, for the public to learn about research taking place at the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Oxford cognitive health Clinical Research Facility.

  • Summary:
    An Oxfordshire man who wore an environmentally friendly wooden cast as part of an NHS study after breaking his wrist has urged others to participate in research.
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