Can you go skiing after a knee replacement?

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skiing after knee replacement surgery

There’s always one on any skiing holiday: the poor soul who came a cropper on the slopes and has to spend the rest of the week incapacitated, staring out of the window, looking mournfully at the piste while sipping on a hot chocolate. No shame in being that person – it can happen to the best skier.

But what happens if you’re a regular skier and you have to go through a procedure as serious as knee replacement surgery? Are you going to have to stay on the sidelines forever?

If you are a regular skier and you’re thinking about knee replacement surgery, you might have even given the slopes a pass this season: total knee replacement candidates usually suffer from little to no mobility and experience a great deal of pain, and nothing puts pressure and strain on the knee as much as skiing does. But when the operation’s done, will you be able to return to your favourite winter hobby? Let’s try to address your concerns…

Skiing after knee replacement: are you experienced?

If so, there’s no need to panic, because most knee surgeons will encourage experienced skiers to get back on the slopes… eventually. If you know what you’re doing on the piste and are prepared to undergo a well-managed period of rehab, you won’t have to give up skiing (and that goes for virtually any sporting activity that doesn’t involve intensive running).

Skiing after knee replacement: your first on-piste experience

However, there’s a downside: you’re going to have to accept that you won’t be able to hop back on the slope and continue as before. Most importantly, you’re going to have to be a lot more selective about the days you go out and the terrain you ski on. Soft powder = good. Icy conditions = bad. And be extremely careful about obstacles, because fractures around the knee area can cause a wealth of problems for knee replacements.

Skiing after knee replacement: about recovery time

You already know that you can’t just get up and go about your regular business after total knee replacement: you’ll need the use of a walker or crutches for a few days, a cane for a few weeks, and – usually – you’ll be walking about unaided in about two or three weeks. Add another six weeks or so of physical therapy, you’re good to go for normal routine activities.

However, you’re going to need more recovery time if you’re aiming to be ready for the next skiing season. The minimum amount of time you should wait to ski after knee replacement surgery is three months, and you are advised to undergo a course of dry land training, in order to regain the adequate balance and strength for skiing. You’re also strongly advised to start on groomed surfaces for an hour or two at a time, to help get your endurance levels back up.

As a regular skier myself who has just undergone his own knee replacement, this is all positive information. I have every intention of returning to skiing but think I’ll be pushing it to even consider returning after three months, so I’ve set my sights firmly on next season.

If you’d like more advice on returning to skiing, or any other sport, after a knee replacement, call  08450 60 44 99 to arrange a consultation with Mr Jonathan Webb at either his London or Bristol knee clinic.