It’s winter in Central New York. That means outdoor sports enthusiasts are skiing instead of golfing and skating instead swimming. For patients who have recently undergone a joint replacement surgery, the transition may not be as easy as replacing one sport with another.
The Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists’ (SOS) Joint Replacement Experts caution their patients about high impact winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, and counsel individual patients based on their unique factors, but in general provide these guidelines for winter sports and activities after undergoing a joint replacement.
First, age plays a large role in the ability to participate in sports after a joint replacement. As you get older your body naturally loses muscle and bone mass, explains the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (it usually starting around menopause for women). This can decrease your speed and increase your likelihood of injury, including broken bones. Recovery time may also be slower than it would be in younger patients, and an older patient might not bounce back as easily or quickly as you used to from an injury.
Activity level prior to surgery is another important indication on a return to sports after a joint replacement. According to a July 2008, study in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, more than half of all joint replacement patients were able to return to sports that they were very active in pre-operatively within three years of undergoing surgery. If patients were avid skiers before surgery, most likely can still continue with modifications like only skiing on groomed trails with no jumps, bumps or uneven slopes.
However, people who weren’t very active before joint replacement surgery are not likely to become more active afterwards. “It’s important to have realistic expectations about exercise before, during and after recovery from joint replacement surgery,” says Dr. Timothy Izant. “If you decide you feel capable of more activity after recovering from your joint replacement, it is crucial to talk to your doctor about what sports are right for you and to always use extreme care when active.”
Additionally, which joint you had replaced can determine which winter sports in which to participate after recovery from surgery. For instance, playing hockey after a knee replacement may not be the best idea because knee injuries are already common with that sport. Consider joining a non-checking hockey league, because skating can be a safe gliding sport.
“Even if a doctor and patient together decide active winter sports aren’t appropriate for an individual, there are always ways to enjoy the winter wonderland we often see in our region,” comments Dr. Izant. “I encourage cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. However on very cold days, take a walk in the mall, large box stores or grocery stores. Also, consider water aerobics classes that are offered all year long.”
The most important thing to do is talk to your doctor before taking up any sports after joint replacement surgery. Consult with an SOS Joint Replacement Specialist today.