Returning to Sports after Knee Replacement

It is estimated that the number of knee replacement surgeries in the United States will increase 673% from 2005 to 2030.  People under 60 years old are responsible for most of this spike in surgeries.  Also, people are living longer than before.  Most expect to stay as active as possible up to and after retiring.

Many people desire to return to high-level activities and sports like golf, hiking, jogging, or tennis.  A common and worthy goal after surgery is to return to playing sports.  This article highlights realistic expectations and timeframes for returning to your favorite sport.

Health Benefits of Physical Activity and Sports after Knee Replacement

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Knee replacement surgery has an unquestionable positive impact on your health and fitness.  This is because decreased pain and improved function following surgery allow you to resume previously restricted activities.

In fact, research proves the risk for serious cardiovascular events is reduced by 12.4 % after hip or knee replacement surgery.  So undergoing a knee replacement not only reduces your knee pain, it also decreases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Can I Play Sports after My Knee Replacement?

Research shows you are extremely likely to return to low-impact activities after your knee replacement.  The majority of people (94%) will safely return to walking, biking, swimming, dancing, and playing golf.

People hoping to return to moderate impact activities do so with a success rate of 64%.  This includes sports like bowling, skiing, hiking, and doubles tennis.

Those who desire to return to higher impact sports do so at a lower rate (43%).  This includes activities such as softball, basketball, jogging, and singles tennis.

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Several factors will increase or decrease your chances of returning to sports.  People who are overweight or obese are less likely to return to any sport.  Younger people (< 70 years old) are more likely to return to their favorite sport.  Also, research shows men are slightly more likely to return to sports after their surgery.  Women, don’t let this discourage you!

When Can I Get Back to Playing Sports?

Many people we rehabilitate hope to return to golf after their knee replacement.  As long as there are no post-surgical complications, expect to return to playing golf within one year of your surgery.  Some people (13%) may return as soon as 12 weeks after surgery.  Most people (44%) resume playing a full round of golf between 4 to 6 months after surgery.

Golf exercises

The average time to return to other low-impact sports (biking, swimming, and dancing) is similar to golf.  Expect to resume moderate impact activities (doubles tennis, bowling, and hiking) between 3 to 4 months after your surgery.  In most cases, people looking to resume high-impact activities (singles tennis, softball, and jogging) do so no sooner than 6 months after surgery.

During jogging, loads 5 to 10x your body weight is imparted through your artificial knee.  Not all joint replacements are designed to withstand these forces.  Studies show higher wear of the artificial joint surface in people who run after their knee replacement.  However, there is no evidence that running increases your risk of undergoing another operation.

Final Thoughts on Sports after Your Knee Replacement

Discouragement from your surgeon, mainly to high-impact sports, may be a barrier for you.  Surgeons usually approach these recommendations on a case-by-case basis.  We recommend you discuss your situation with your surgeon. It is always a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of returning to your sport.

Pain, weakness, and a loss of confidence are other reasons why you may not return to your favorite sport.  Your physical therapist can help in these cases.  It is important to keep open communication with your therapist.  This includes shared decision-making about your goals and reasonable expectations. If you would like help returning to your sport after your knee replacement surgery, give us a call.

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