Written By: Robert M. Shalvoy, MD Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Care New England Health System on December 19, 2022
Will I still be an athlete after a knee replacement?
What will I be able to do?
Will I be better or worse?
How do I know what is best for me?
In a Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA), an incision is made down the front of the knee. The muscles and tissues are then retracted away to expose the joint. The surfaces of the worn-down bone are leveled off to a smooth, flat surface and the replacement surfaces of metal and plastic are precisely fitted and fixed to the bone. This corrects the deformities and restrictions of the knee. Lastly, the muscles and tendons are allowed to return to their normal position.
Traditionally, surgeons have balked at patients returning to vigorous sports after knee replacement. These surgeons preferred limiting stress to promote longevity of the artificial components. (Note: there is limited data or literature outlining the outcome of patients attempting to return to sports).
Over time however, the design/quality of the component parts, improved surgical techniques, and advanced rehabilitation programs have allowed for new levels of performance and function after TKA. This coincides with changes in patient expectations and increased desires to maintain an active lifestyle - including recreational and competitive sports.
So, the bar has been raised and the guidelines are evolving. It is important to remember that while the function of a total knee replacement has never been better, it has not reached the level of a normal knee that has not been replaced.
The intensity of these activities can be modified to match the patient’s level of function and do not cause high levels of stress on the knee.
The first thing to consider is your ability level prior to surgery. If you weren’t able to do it before surgery, you are not likely to be able to do it after. Research shows that what you were doing before surgery is predictive of what you will do after your recovery and rehabilitation.
All of the photos in the Gender Spectrum Collection were taken by Zackary Drucker. This is part of The Gender Spectrum Collection.
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