by: Kathleen A. Hogan, MD
As the last of the snow melts away, our thoughts turn away from the ski slopes and towards the golf course and the tennis courts. Patients who have had their hips or knees replaced frequently ask if they can safely participate in tennis and golf after joint replacement. Make sure you talk to your surgeon about this before resuming an exercise program after surgery as your doctor may have different recommendations for you.
Return to Full Activity
Return to full activity depends on the type of joint replaced and on the patient. Recovery after a hip replacement is typically faster than after knee replacement. The direct anterior approach to hip replacement limits muscle damage and can be particularly beneficial in those looking for a quick return to activities. However, the bone needs to grow into the implant to stabilize it, and many surgeons recommend waiting at minimum 8 weeks before resuming golf or tennis after a hip replacement. Recovery after knee replacement is slower. Time is needed to recover range of motion and gain strength. Most patients need 3-6 months before they can resume vigorous sporting activities.
Will My Artificial Joint Wear Out?
Joint replacements can wear out, and high impact activities such as running may cause the artificial joint to wear out faster, possibly leading to further surgery. Surveys of joint surgeons show a wide variation in recommendations. However, the majority do allow their patients to resume moderate activity, including golf and doubles tennis.
Stress Placed on Knee by Golf and Tennis
Golf and tennis do place considerable stresses on the knee. For example, driving a golf ball generates equivalent joint reactive forces in the knee as does running, just for a much shorter period of time. In golf, the leading knee absorbs the most stress, while in tennis the forehand generates higher joint contact forces in the knee than does the backhand.
How Will My Knee Perform?
How does having a joint replacement affect your athletic performance? It depends. Surveys of small numbers of patients playing golf after joint replacement show that most patients report a small increase in handicap and a decreased drive distance. Most golfers do not walk the course after joint replacement, and instead choose to use a golf cart. Some notice some mild discomfort during and after playing but a high percentage of patients resumed golfing and were playing the same or increased frequency compared to before their surgery. There is limited data on return to play of tennis players. Many patients feel their level of play improves because their joints no longer hurt.
Expectations About Returning to Tennis and Golf after Joint Replacement
One of the goals of hip and knee replacement is to restore mobility and enable patients to get back to activities they enjoy. However, it may take time to rehabilitate your muscles after surgery. Joint replacements are metal and plastic and are not the same as your original parts. Even after joint replacement your new hip or knee may ache or feel stiff after athletic activity. However most golfers and tennis players indicate that they are able to continue to enjoy their sports following joint replacement. Make sure you talk to your surgeon about your expectations of returning to tennis and golf after hip or knee replacement.