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Should you play sports after hip or knee replacement?

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Updated March 31, 2008

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].

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. Those recommendations are highlighted in the following table.

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: Surgery NetLinks.

References:
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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