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Playing Sports After a Knee Replacement

April 29, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
Additions/comments provided by Matthew Russo, MD – Orthopedic Surgeon

Knee replacement surgery, also known as either total or partial knee arthroplasty, is a common type of surgery in which a damaged knee is replaced with a prosthetic one. A knee replacement is no small operation–it is only carried out if patients do not respond to other treatments. The surgery may help if:

 

  • You have severe pain or stiffness in your knee joints
  • Your knee pain interferes with your sleep and quality of life overall
  • You can no longer complete everyday tasks
  • You can’t go to work

 

Many people also choose to have a knee replacement because their knee pain prevents them from exercising.  If you have had a knee replacement, you may be wondering:

 

Can I play sports after a knee replacement?

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The answer is, yes you can, but that doesn’t mean you can jump right back into your sport of choice. First of all, you should discuss exercising and sports with your doctor and see what he has to say. It’s likely that he will recommend that you partake in low-impact sports to start out with, which don’t put too much strain on the knees.

 

Some low-impact sports are:

 

  • Swimming. Swimming is a great full-body sport that doesn’t put strain on the knees. Most surgeons will encourage this activity after at least 6 weeks of healing before submerging the incision under water.
  • Cycling. When you’re cycling, your legs get an intense workout without engaging your knees. And of course, cycling gets your heart pumping.
  • Rowing. Rowing mostly focuses on the arms, so your knees won’t have to do any work at all. 
  • Tai Chi. This form of exercise, often referred to as “meditation in motion,” is very helpful for those recovering from an injury or operation. It incorporates breathing with slow-motion, full-body movements.

 

What about sports that do put some strain on the knees? Mobility of the knee is critical after knee replacement to reduce the scar tissue development and improve the strength of your muscle, so you can’t just neglect your knees entirely after a surgery — some light exercise is crucial for recovery. Many patients benefit from physical therapy or home exercise videos to regain the strength and mobility in the knee after surgery.

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One form of exercise that you can do practically anywhere is walking. If you are still having difficulty moving around after a knee surgery, your healthcare provider may tell you to walk around the house using a walker or cane. But if you feel like you can manage it, take a walk around your neighborhood. Start slowly and pay attention to your knees. Every day, gradually increase the distance that you walk, and before you know it, your knees will be back to normal. If you have any questions, consult with your doctor beforehand. 

 

When can I return to my sport of choice?

 

This question is hard to answer and ultimately depends on how you respond to rehabilitation, and how long you need to recover after a knee replacement. Talk to your doctor and follow his or her recommendations. Along with your doctor, you can develop a workout routine so your knees can recover properly, and you’ll be back in the game in no time at all.

 

For more information and videos about joint replacement surgery, please visit JointReplacementpedia.

References

 

Doctor Profile

Dr. Matthew Russo

Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Russo is a third-generation orthopedic surgeon in Scottsdale, AZ specializing in total hip and knee replacement surgery. He feels very grateful to have the opportunity to serve the Phoenix community as an orthopedic surgeon, just as his father and grandfather have done, for over 30 years.

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