Passionate climber and skier Jon Bentley decided to undergo a full knee replacement to get back to the sports he loved.
I am 62, and I’ve been climbing and skiing all my life. I first had problems with my left knee when I fell off a climbing wall about 30 years ago. It split the meniscus horizontally and tore some ligaments.
A knee injury is a fundamental problem if you enjoy activities such as climbing and off-piste skiing. I’d had keyhole surgery a couple of times over the years to clear up bits of cartilage that had come loose.
Jonathan performed this procedure for me about 15 years ago and, at the time, said I had only about thirty per cent cartilage coverage left on the joint and that the next operation he would perform on me would probably be a knee replacement.
He discussed the optimal timing of this procedure, explained implant longevity, and suggested I put it off as long as possible.
Since then, I’ve done more challenging climbs and some big ski mountaineering trips, but I was beginning to have to compensate. Certain climbing moves became impossible, such as bending my leg to full extension and putting my weight on the knee joint.
Ironically, going uphill was still possible, but going downhill was becoming increasingly difficult. It was extremely painful, and the knee would give way, and there’s only so long you can ask your climbing partners to carry your gear for you.
Making the decision to undergo a knee replacement
Day-to-day, I’d learned to live with a fair degree of pain and non-functional behaviour. At that point, I wouldn’t have chosen to have a knee replacement just to improve discomfort and lack of mobility. The moment came when I was skiing a couple of years ago, and I realised I could no longer ski off-piste safely without holding everyone back.
It was at this point I went to see Jonathan again. For me, the expectation was that I would be able to return to the activities I loved.
I had a total robotic knee replacement on the left knee on 5 January this year. Friends told me that there is a period when you wake up and think what have I done to myself? And, indeed, I had one or two of those moments.
I took the physio’s advice to get an ice machine to speed up recovery, which was really beneficial. I followed their rehab programme closely and, as soon as I was able, I started going regularly to the gym.
In April, thirteen weeks after my operation, I visited the Greek island of Kalymnos. Near Kos, the island is famous for its rock climbing, and I was able to climb a 7A, which is a respectably difficult climb.
The photograph I sent Jonathan showed that I could bend my leg to full extension and put my weight on it. I was delighted with my progress.
Since then, it has continued to get stronger. Occasionally, I experience some stiffness, but I can walk and climb carrying a full rucksack with no difficulty. I typically use sticks, but that’s more to protect my other knee! I’m looking forward to trying my new knee out on the slopes.