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Competitive Sports Following Joint Replacement Surgery

Marathon Runner

Which sports/activities are ok?

Surprisingly, there is not a lot of research on how, when and what types of sports patients are allowed to pursue after joint replacement surgery.  Most surgeons typically recommend specific sports to avoid, such as running and other high impact activities, however, these recommendations are mostly based on opinion, instead of objective data.  Also, please note that in my practice, hip resurfacing patients have no restrictions on any activities. For regular joint replacement surgery, most surgeons, agree that the following sports are ok for patients to participate in following surgery:


What are my chances of returning to sports after joint replacement surgery?


Return to sport is generally dependent on your pre-surgery activity level.  If you were still fairly active in spite of your degenerative joint disease, then you are likely to return to that state after surgery. Predictors of return to sport include, fit body habitus, male gender, absence of joint pain in other parts of the body, young age, male gender and participation in sports prior to surgery. In general, greater than 75% of patients are able to return to sports following joint replacement surgery, but this number does vary depending on the study. Finally, hip patients, in particular hip resurfacing patients are able to return to high level activities.  In fact, many surgeons including myself expect hip resurfacing patients to exceed their pre-surgery activity level and also participate in high impact sports.  Similar to hip resurfacing, standard total hip replacement patients and partial knee replacement are also more likely to return to sports than total knee replacement patients. In general, the ability to perform activities such as cutting, kneeling, twisting and pivoting is more challenging for a total knee replacement patient.


Will I damage my new implant by participating in sports?


Generally speaking, the longevity of your new hip or knee is tied to the amount of cycles (revolutions) or the amount of time the bearing surfaces rub on one another.  The thought being, the more cycles and load that the joint experiences the more likely it is for the implant to wear out.  However, in a recent study, researchers found that when patients were allowed to return to high level activities following joint replacement surgery, such as high impact sport or manual labor, there was no difference in durability of the implants when compared to those that followed recommendations to not participate in such high levels of activity. Therefore, it is unclear if our thinking about patient activity level and wear fits with what patients experience in reality. 


As with most other issues in my practice, when it comes to activity level following joint replacement surgery, I take a patient centered approach. One size does not fit all.  We will have a detailed discussion about your goals for the procedure and the activities that you wish to pursue after surgery and tailor your postoperative rehab and activities to achieving those goals. 


Dr. Ugo Ihekweazu, is an orthopedic surgeon and an expert in Hip and Knee Replacement surgery in the Greater Houston Area.  Dr. Ihekweazu is a member of the Fondren Orthopedic Group with offices in the Texas Medical Center, Sugar Land, and Willowbrook/Cypress. Dr. Ihekweazu has particular expertise in minimally invasive anterior and posterior total hip replacement surgery, hip resurfacing, partial knee replacement, minimally invasive total knee replacement surgery, computer navigation, robotic-assisted surgery, complex joint replacement and revision joint replacement surgery.  If you have further questions about any of these surgical options please contact us today to make an appointment.


Ugo Ihekweazu, MD Orthopedic Surgeon Hip and Knee Replacement Minimally Invasive and Revision Surgery

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