Playing Sports After Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery

captains chair knee lift
captains chair knee lift.

Athletes live with a variety of aches and pains and the occasional broken bone. But aging athletes may find themselves facing a bigger challenge - joint replacement after years of wear and tear on hips and knees.  If you have had a recent hip or knee replacement you might question whether it is safe for you to participate in sports. While no randomized controlled trials exist that definitively answer that question, there are some collective opinions by experts in the field as to what activities are recommended or not recommended.

The following recommendations are from a Bandolier [1] survey of consultant surgeons and fellows and senior residents involved in orthopaedic procedures at the Mayo Clinic [2].

Keep in mind that often the best predictor of recovery after an orthopedic procedure is the level of conditioning of the athlete prior to surgery. Well-conditioned patients often recover faster and more fully and many surgeons and physical therapists recommend pre-hab prior to rehab for elective orthopedic procedures. Because joint replacements are generally an elective procedure, there is generally plenty of time to get ready for the operation, and this is the ideal time to build strength and stability in the joints and muscles not only in the affects body part, but the entire body —a  healthy athlete will recover much faster from these procedures.

The study asked the surgeons via a single page questionnaire whether they would recommend regular patient participation in 28 particular sports after hip or knee replacement surgery.


Recommended exercise includes: Golf, Swimming, Cycling, Sailing and Scuba
Not recommended exercise includes: Squash, Ice-hockey, Baseball, Running Water skiing, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and Rugby

To be recommended or not recommended required that more than 75% of surgeons agreed. Anything between these scores received a classification of intermediate.

Cross-country skiing was recommended after knee but not hip replacement.

Recommended sports were supported by more than 75% of responders. A range of energetic and contact sports were not recommended by more than 75% of responders - including karate, soccer and water-skiing. Other activities, like tennis, ice-skating and aerobics had intermediate scores, and were neither recommended nor not. This paper had a literature search to identify reports on hip or knee surgical procedures and sports. In active golfers who had a knee replacement in the USA, the majority report a mild ache while playing, usually on the target side [3].

Obviously, there is a great deal of individual difference in ability to make a complete recovery after a major surgery. The decision to return to sport is one you must make along with the guidance of your surgeon and Physical Therapist. For more information about knee and hip replacement surgery and rehabilitation, please see: rehab links.

Bandolier, a monthly journal produced in Oxford provide health information based upon research evidence.

BJ McGrory, MJ Stuart, FH Sim. Participation in sports after hip and knee arthroplasty: review of the literature and survey of surgeon preferences. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 1995 70: 342-8.
WJ Mallon, JJ Callaghan. Total knee arthroplasty in active golfers. Journal of Arthroplasty 1993 8: 299-306.

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