Returning To Tennis After Knee Replacement. What To Do, What To Avoid

Written By on October 16, 2020 — Medically Reviewed By Kristopher Ceniza

Written by on — Medically Reviewed By: Kristopher Cenzia

Tennis can be quite hard on your joints. There are a lot of sudden movements that can lead to a knee injury.

But if you have to take the step to have a total knee replacement can you still play tennis?

There are some sports that are off-limits following surgery such as a knee replacement, but tennis is defined as a relatively low impact sport.

Especially if you use knee supports for tennis that can help aid your return to the sport. 

This means that along with swimming, golf, and hiking, you can play tennis after knee replacement surgery.

Here we will be looking at what you can and can not do following knee replacement surgery, including;

  • Studies into tennis after knee replacement
  • Can you play tennis after knee replacement?
  • What sports can you play following the surgery?
  • What to avoid after total knee replacement
  • How long does it take to recover?

Knee Replacement and Tennis

A recent study on knee replacement and tennis tracked patients five to 15 years after their surgery. What was ultimately found from the study was that playing of tennis had no negative effects on the joint.

“Patients were coming back for their annual review . . . and were participating in a range of ‘prohibited’ activities. There were patients competing in tennis, but there was no wear, no dislocations, no loosening, and no revisions,” said study author Dr. Samuel Joseph.

The doctor is an orthopedic surgeon at Linacre Private Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

“Yes, there are patients running marathons and participating in triathlons after knee replacement surgery,” he added.

Each year there are around 600,000 knee replacements performed in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality.

The procedure acts to replace the natural, damaged joint with a prosthetic version of the joint which is made of metal and plastic.

This can be a result of severe arthritis, trauma, or other forms of joint damage.

This particular study focused on 355 knee replacement patients who continued their participation in sports after surgery.

Over 100 of these patients also participated in high impact sports. 139 of this focus group did not partake in regular sporting activities.

Out of the patient test group who played regular sports, only three patients underwent further operations on the knee area. These were not associated with repairing the new knee joint but rather for existing injuries.

Three patients who did not participate in regular sports did need to have their artificial joint modified or replaced as it loosened over time.

Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and wasn’t involved in the new research. She said she wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“I think as we collect more data, we’ll see the tide turn a little bit,” said Matzkin, who is also chief of women’s sports medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “The goal is to keep patients active.”

Dr. Matzkin also pointed out that these patients hoping to return to high-impact sports were more likely both motivated and strong. This means that they have built stronger muscles to hold the joint in place and were most likely not obese.

Obesity and lack of strong muscles do impact the longevity of the artificial knee joint from the replacement.

“I think we need to follow large [groups] of patients and their activity levels and how that plays out. This is a pretty small study, and we need big, multi-center studies to look at these patients over the long term. But this was a fantastic starting point.”

For a more comprehensive study, this means that more people should be tracked following their surgery, but this preliminary study does show that tennis most likely does not affect the new, prosthetic joint in patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you play tennis after knee replacement?

Playing tennis after total knee replacement is not generally recommended by many doctors.

However, despite the high impact on joints it is perfectly safe to do so in moderation.

If you regularly played tennis before surgery then you will most likely recover and be able to return to the sport.

Remaining fit is also important in avoiding reinjury.

Can you play sports after a knee replacement?

The short answer is yes, you can play sports after a knee replacement.

But you will be living with some additional restrictions that you did not have before you completed the surgery.
The most important thing to remember is that contact sports. These include soccer and football.

You can not carry the weight of more than 20 pounds after such surgery.

Contact sports are harder on the knee joint than low impact sports like tennis.

This means that you are a higher risk of reinjury when participating in these past times.

What should I avoid after knee replacement?

There are some activities that unfortunately you are not advised to participate in after full recovery of a knee replacement.

These include; downhill skiing, contact sports such as soccer or football, and anything that requires the actions of jerking, twisting, pulling or running.

Lower impact physical activity is fine to partake in once you are fully recovered. Swimming, hiking, playing tennis, and golfing are great ways to stay active without risking further injury.

How long does it take to recover from a total knee replacement?

The time to recover from a total knee replacement varies from person to person.

All patients are encouraged to begin ambulation, or walking without the need for assistance, from the day of their knee replacement surgery.

This can be done with the aid of a walker or orthopedic device.

You will generally be hospitalized for 1 or 2 days after the surgery, but the stay may be longer depending on your doctor’s examination.

If your medical team thinks that it is safe to do so, you may be allowed home the same day as your knee replacement.

If it is determined that you may need extra attention or assistance, you may be advised to seek home support or transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center.
Doctors will generally make every effort to return you to your home environment without additional support.

Mich Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.