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Can You Still Play the Sport You Love After a Joint Replacement?

Many people love playing sports. Unfortunately, playing sports can be hard on your joints. If you play a lot of sports, you may eventually need a joint replacement. And while a joint replacement can allow you to move freely again without pain, you may need to reevaluate the activities you engage in.

In this blog, the providers at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine explain more about joint replacements and returning to sports.

Why is joint replacement surgery necessary?

Your joints, such as the joints in your knees and hips, are protected by a flexible layer of cartilage at the ends of the bones. This cartilage cushions the movements of your joints and helps them move smoothly. 

However, over time, this cartilage can wear away, whether due to a condition — such as arthritis — or just through normal aging. Without this cushioning, bone will rub against bone, and this can lead to inflammation, pain, and less freedom of movement.

Athletes can experience this same type of wear on their joints as well, and often at a more accelerated pace than would occur with normal aging. Once this cartilage is gone, it doesn’t grow back. Once cartilage is lost, we typically recommend joint replacement. A joint replacement can allow your joints to move again without pain. 

What’s involved in joint replacement surgery?

Getting a joint replacement is a major surgery. In some cases we may replace the whole joint, and in other cases we may remove the damaged portions of the joint and replace them with artificial components. In many cases, we can perform minimally invasive joint replacement surgery, which means less cutting, less risk of infection, and less downtime.

After surgery, you’ll be prescribed physical therapy and rehabilitation sessions. The physical therapy and rehabilitation — which will include a variety of low-impact exercises — will help you get back to having a fully functioning joint again.

What activities are allowed after joint replacement surgery?

There’s no question that you’ll likely feel much better after a joint replacement, with previous pain no longer being an issue. Whether you play sports again is less a question of if it’s possible, as you’ll likely be pain-free enough to do so. It will instead be a matter of your own personal risk assessment.

However, many experts recommend against returning to high-impact sports, such as hockey or soccer. This is because your new joint could need to be replaced again if you continue to put it through the strain of your previous activities. 

However, you should be as active as possible after a joint replacement, as it could help your body return to normal more quickly. Your doctor at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine will discuss the activities you should do as you recover. If you’re getting a knee replacement, for example, your doctor may recommend low-impact activities to start with, such as the following:

As you get to full strength, you can discuss with your doctor the activities that would be best for you. Furthermore, if you have excess weight, you should aim to get it off. The less weight you carry, the less strain there will be on your new joint and your other joints.

If you have specific questions about how a joint replacement may affect your ability to return to sports, or if you would like to know more about the procedure itself, book an appointment online or over the phone with Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine today.

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