Return to sports after a total knee replacement

Return to your active lifestyle

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Many patients ask about the return to sports after a total knee replacement. Total knee replacement surgery is an excellent procedure to address knee arthritis. The surgery is designed to restore function, address alignment, and relieve pain.

Total knee replacements are mechanical devices created from metal and plastic.  While there have been significant improvements in implants and techniques since the first one was performed in 1968, the implants may not withstand the higher forces sustained when playing sports or high-impact activities. We hope that the knee replacement we implant will last a patient’s lifetime and minimize the requirement for a revision knee replacement.

Patients undergoing knee replacement today are much more active compared to prior generations.  Older patients desire to continue their prior levels of activities.  In addition, surgeries are now being performed on younger and more active patients.

There has been NO large-scale study that has compared the longevity of total knee replacements in active versus inactive individuals. There are some small studies in active patients with specific partial knee replacement implants and total knee replacements that are able to resume their prior active lifestyle.

Return to sports after a total knee replacement

Know your limitations

If you have any doubts, use common sense when playing sports on your new knee implants.  The greater the impact from sports, the higher the risk of damage to your implants. Your ability to return to sports will be affected by your general health.  The healthier you are, the more likely you are to return to playing sports after surgery. Many people who participated in high-impact sports prior to a total knee replacement are able to resume medium to low-impact sports after surgery.

Level of Activity

Total knee replacements are the best way to continue to maintain an active lifestyle. Below are some recommendations for different activities:

Low-impact sports – There are no limitations with low-impact activities.

Intermediate-impact sports – If you have prior experience, you may resume these activities.

High-impact sports – High impact sports are more likely to lead to wear-and-tear on your knee implants.

Be Active! Sports You can Play after a Knee Replacement

We want you to continue to be active after your total knee replacement. There is no doubt that a continued active lifestyle leads to better health and personal satisfaction. Most hip and knee doctors recommend that you can continue to play sports such as the following:

  • Swimming – A great way to exercise without putting stress on your artificial knee. Most patients can resume swimming once the incision over their knee replacement has healed
  • Cycling – Excellent way to regain strength after a total knee replacement. Begin by pedaling backward on a stationary bike while you gradually regain strength in your knee before progressing to regular biking
  • Weight lifting – A great way to build strength and minimize pain. Use appropriate weights and consider the advice of a physical therapist or personal trainer.
  • Elliptical machines – An excellent substitute for running as you can move faster than walking without the impact of jogging.
  • Walking – Low impact activity. Start with shorter, smaller steps as you work you way up to longer distances
  • Downhill skiing or surfing – If you have previous experience in this area, you may resume water and winter sports. Be cautious and avoid extreme sports.
  • Yoga – Great way to improve the flexibility and health of the knee. There may be limitations.
  • Calisthenics – Many gyms offer calisthenic classes. Avoid high-impact exercises.
  • Golf – Excellent way to get your walking miles in and exercise your upper and lower body. Spend time warming up at the driving range and consider using a golf cart when going out.
  • Doubles tennis – Much less requirement for movement compared to singles tennis. Avoid high impact running.

Higher impact activities that you may want to avoid include: running, basketball, jogging, soccer, football, power-lifting, and skydiving.

The above discussed recommendations are in alignment with those of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. If in doubt regarding activities you would like to resume – schedule an appointment with Dr. Morton.

Read more about Knee Replacements:

Total Knee Replacement

Partial Knee Replacement

Am I a candidate for an outpatient total knee arthroplasty?