Tennis can be quite hard on your joints as it involves sudden movements that can easily lead to injuries and knee pain. And, if you’ve recently had surgery, you might just be wondering if or how you can still play tennis after knee replacement.
TL;DR: Yes, you can still play tennis after your knee replacement surgery.
For those of you that are not in a hurry, I urge you to keep on reading as I detail what experts are saying about the topic. If you want to skip ahead, simply tap on the bullets below and you’ll be taken to the corresponding section:
- Dr. Samuel Joseph, orthopedic surgeon
- Dr. Mark Flanigan, retired physician with knee replacement surgery
- Jeff Barry, MD and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery
- Our team of physical therapists
What experts say about knee replacement and playing tennis
From Dr. Samuel Joseph, orthopedic surgeon:
A report came out recently (May 2022) about a research that tracked patients 5-15 years after they’ve had their knee replaced. Ultimately, the study points that participating in tennis (sports) had no negative effect on the joint. (1)
According to the study’s author, Dr. Samuel Joseph:
“Patients were coming back for their annual review . . . and were participating in a range of ‘prohibited’ activities. There were patients competing in downhill skiing and tennis, but there was no wear, no dislocations, no loosening and no revisions”
The study tracked 355 patients who still played sports after knee their surgery. Surprisingly, none of them had subsequent surgeries to repair or modify their new joints whereas there were 3 loose joints from the control group (those who didn’t participate in sports).
Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, who isn’t involved in the study, says that patients who went back to sports were likely stronger and more motivated.
A word of caution from us: This is a relatively small study, so take it with a grain of salt.
From Dr. Mark Flanigan, retired physician with knee replacement surgery:
Like many of you here, Dr. Mark Flanigan was also active prior to his knee replacement. He Specifically, he loved climbing mountains, played baseball as a child, and now enjoys tennis.
However, he also developed severe osteoarthritis which prevented him from enjoying the sports he loved. He consulted fellow doctor, Dr. Oscar Noel, who initially recommended conservative treatments such as physical therapy and custom bracing.
While conservative treatment made him feel less pain, however, he wanted to be more competitive. Hence, why he sought out knee replacement surgery. 4 months later, he’s back to playing doubles tennis without any knee pain. (2)
According to Dr. Flanigan:
“Now, I don’t even feel the implant. My knee does not hurt anymore, and I feel like I could climb any mountain. Last night, I played three sets of tennis at a club in Greeley, and I’m getting my power serve back, too.”
From Jeff Barry, MD and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery:
Sourced from a Q&A on the Arthritis Foundation, Jeff Barry was asked about playing high-impact sports after knee replacements.
In a nutshell, he says it’s doable but high impact sports such as basketball and soccer put excessive stress on the new knee and might lead to earlier wear of the implants. Furthermore, this new joint will not have the same proprioceptive feedback as the original joint.
He recommends lower impact sports which, of course, includes tennis. (3)
According to Jeff Barry, MD:
“Lower impact sports, such as biking, swimming, elliptical, skiing, doubles tennis, hiking or golfing, are going to be much better for the longevity of a replacement.”
From our team of physical therapists here at Knee Force:
It is perfectly safe for you to play after your joint replacement surgery. However, you must do so in moderation.
This is particularly true for those who were active prior to the surgery. But those who were relatively sedentary can start playing tennis, too, when given proper rehab and training.
On that note, we do have a few precautions:
- Everyone has a different time table for recovery. So, please consult your physician and physical therapist before hitting tennis balls.
- Clay courts are better than grass and hard courts. The unpredictability of the tennis balls’ bounce in grass as well as the speed at which games are played in hard courts may be harmful to your new knee.
- Warm-up and cool down. A proper dynamic warm-up encourages warmth and blood flow which keeps your joints and muscles limber. A proper cool down that involves adequate stretching can help minimize soreness and pain.
- Play doubles instead of singles. As I’m sure you know, doubles isn’t a physically demanding as singles tennis. Use that to your advantage.
- If any unnatural symptom like excessive pain, inflammation, and instability occur, please speak with your doctor or physical therapist right away.
- Knee braces for tennis can help give your joint more stability. Try them out.
Recommended: Physical therapy exercises after knee replacement
Several experts have openly said that hitting the tennis court after your knee replacement is possible, if not encouraged. These experts include orthopedic surgeons, physicians, and physical therapists.
However, this is not without precaution. So, before you try anything that might get you back on your surgeon’s table, please consult with your doctor.
- Salamon, Maureen. “After Knee Replacement, Play On.” Consumer Health News | HealthDay, 28 May 2022.
- “Dr. Mark Flanigan Back On the Tennis Court After Robotic-Assisted Knee Replacement.” Center for Spine and Orthopedics, 2 May 2022.
- Playing Sports After a Knee Replacement| Arthritis Foundation.