Safe Choices for Sport Participants with Total Knee Replacement

Which sport and recreational activities are safe for someone who has had total knee replacement surgery? At best, past answers were educated guesses. At worst, a poor guess might end up causing a person to participate in activities that put too much strain on the implant, leading to extra wear or possibly even destruction of the replacement parts.

Now doctors have fresh scientific information to help them guide their patients after knee replacement surgery.  Scientists experimented with three different types of knee joint replacements. After securing each joint in a special holder, they measured the amount and location of the pressure on the joint during simulated activities of cycling, power walking, downhill walking, and jogging.

They found that stress levels from cycling and power walking were evenly spread over the surfaces of the joint. Downhill walking and jogging built up too much pressure over the joint surface. As a result, the authors determined that power walking and cycling can be permitted after total knee replacement surgery, but activities like jogging, hiking, and downhill walking place the joint at risk.

Their study showed how the pressure on the joint builds up the further the knee bends. This led the authors to recommend that people who cycle after total knee replacement surgery should raise their bicycle seat as high as comfortably possible. They also recommend doing a combination of activities, like walking and cycling, so the joint isn’t loaded the same way all the time.

“Cycling and power walking seem to be the least demanding endurance activities for the knee joint,” say the authors. “Regular jogging, or sports involving running,” they conclude, “should be discouraged after total knee replacement.”