What is life like for athletes after total knee replacement surgery?

What is life like for athletes after total knee replacement surgery?

Athletes Living With Total Knee Replacement

 Believe it or not, total knee replacement may be the ticket to living a more active lifestyle. Many of those who are athletic – whether on a professional level or not – are able to return to the activities that were once too painful to perform before the surgery.

Knee replacement surgery is often reserved for those aged sixty and older. However, athletes are more prone to knee injuries because of the nature of sport. Therefore, age is not really a consideration for athletes needing total knee replacement. Multiple knee injuries from teen years through to an athlete’s early thirties could be the main reason why this surgery is a consideration for them at such a young age, compared to the average person.

Times Have Changed

In the recent past, athletes with knee injuries were told to cut back on their activities and live with the pain until they were considered old enough for total knee replacement. Athletes are naturally active people, so forcing them to live a less active lifestyle negatively affects their quality of life. For those who play sports professionally and use sports as their main source of income, a knee injury could ruin their career and, ultimately, their lives.

Before surgery, most athletes start participating less in their sport because it becomes too painful. However, everything ends up going downhill from there because the less they participate in sports, the more inactive they become overall. This lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and negatively impact their overall health, as well as worsen their knee pain. For this reason, many people who are athletic are opting to have the surgery sooner rather than later.

Advances in technology and medicine such as improved knee implant designs, surgical technique, bearing surfaces and fixation methods have altered the way many orthopedic surgeons approach knee replacement surgery. According to Ortho Info, more than 90% of knee implants still function 15 years after the surgery. Total knee replacement surgery allows athletic people to return to an active lifestyle.

However, precautions need to be taken after this surgery in order to ensure proper healing, as well as a long shelf life of the implant.

Guidelines for Exercise and Activity

Most athletic people are eager to get back to sports as soon as possible. However, most are concerned about participating in intense physical activity after the surgery. It should be noted that knee implants are designed to imitate a natural knee. And like a natural knee, the implant requires exercise in order to function at its best.

While recovering from the surgery, exercise should be gradually reintroduced. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the recommended amount of exercise is up to 30 minutes two or three times daily, as well as daily walking.

In order to avoid causing further injury, most athletic people opt for low-impact exercises while recovering, instead of high-impact exercises that can damage the knee and lead to even bigger problems.


In order to build up strength in the knee, walking is a highly recommended exercise. Not only does it help the knee, but it benefits the heart while burning calories. Recovery-conscious athletes begin by walking shorter distances with smaller steps, working their way up to longer distances. Keeping track of how far they walk and for how long helps gauge their progress.


This non-weight bearing activity is an excellent way to exercise without putting stress on the new knee. Many athletic people are able to go back to swimming within six weeks of surgery.


Cyclists are able to regain strength in their artificial knee both on a stationary bicycle/ exercise machine as well as an actual bicycle. Cycling is a highly recommended exercise for those recovering from total knee replacement surgery. However, cycling on level ground instead of uphill or downhill is recommended at first. Cyclists are able to gradually increase their speed and time themselves in order to make the exercise more challenging.


The thing athletes try to avoid as well is stiffness in the knee. Yoga, which involves gentle stretching, can help improve flexibility and general health of the knee. Twisting movements are best avoided. Most athletes are advised to speak with a yoga instructor before beginning this workout so they can modify it to their limitations and not strain the knee.


The perfect excuse to walk around! However, athletes should ensure they have correct balance when hitting the ball.


This sport is great for the heart and provides an excellent upper body workout while placing minimal stress on the knees. The seat should be adequately adjusted so that the knees are bent at a 90 degree angle or more.

What is it like to be an athletic person with total knee replacement? In most cases, quality of life is improved after surgery as they are able to return to an active lifestyle without any pain. Because of this, they are generally able to keep their weight in check, which in turn places less stress on the knee implant. Contrary to popular belief, staying active and healthy is actually beneficial for the overall health of the athletic person as well as the new knee implant. Many people tend to believe that a knee replacement leads to inactivity.

Another benefit for having knee replacement surgery at a young age is that recovery tends to be quicker in younger patients. They also tend to have more energy to exercise and maintain healthy lifestyles.

It is important to allow adequate recovery time and not rush into any activities which could put the athlete at risk for complications that may cause permanent damage. It is important to check with a doctor before engaging in any sport or physical activity. Recovering from the operation and returning to an active lifestyle may be a slow process, but it is worth it in the end; allowing athletic people to live a normal, fully functional, and fulfilling life.

Contact US