Knee replacement breathes new life into skiing – Boston Herald

It was a bluebird day in January and Kim Jackson stood at the top of a green circular trail at Pico Mountain in Vermont.

She was both giddy and nervous that she – as a lifelong skier – had never been on a green run before.

As her husband recorded, she cut out lovely arcing turns, her face alight with joy.

Jackson was discovering what many are realizing today: skiing after a total knee replacement (TKR) is completely doable.

“It was such a relief,” she said of that first run. “It was really ‘Thank God I can do it again’.”

Until about 10 to 15 years ago, the idea of ​​total knee replacement – ​​and other joints – usually meant skiing was possible, but not a sure thing.

Today, with the precision of robotic surgery, the improvement of the artificial joints themselves having no more cement to wear down over the years, and a better understanding of the preparation and recovery of a TKA .

I speak from experience. At the end of August 2020, I had my left knee replaced. This winter, I’m carving turns and enjoying ski days almost as if nothing had happened.

Dr Scott Oliver, President of Plymouth Bay Orthopedics (, knows this from every angle. He has performed countless surgeries over the years and had both knees replaced. Passionate about skiing since always, he returns to the sport at full speed. This is his goal for his patient skiers.

This writer is one of them.

Oliver said that while PTGs have improved over the past 30 years (the first was in 1969; he witnessed its first as a medical student in 1975), it’s the past 10 years that “the things really took off.”

Oliver said things like regional pain blocks that allow immediate movement after surgery, injections done during surgery that speed up the physiotherapy (PT) process, robotic technology and no more cement are key.

So, can any skier or rider return to their TKR sport station? For the most part, and with the right dedication to recovery, Oliver said yes.

His advice to those who hesitate to have surgery for fear of no longer skiing? Have a smart plan and stick to it.

And that plan should start before you go under the knife.

“Prehab is important,” Oliver said. “It is paramount that a patient understands the need for strong thigh muscles.”

He suggests that patients start – as long as possible before a possible TKA – to develop leg muscles and core muscles.

“You have to do the work,” he said. “That’s the key.”

So how do you approach a TKR as a skier?

Do not be afraid : Jackson, like others, tried all sorts of patchwork solutions to continue skiing with an injured knee. Suspenders, slower skiing, over-the-counter painkillers, and more. Last year, she took a run and realized – worried or not – that the time had come. His only hope of skiing again would be the TKR.

But she wasn’t worried. Her team at Dartmouth Medical Center, she said, encouraged her — as Oliver did for me — that with the right plan, she would come back. Plus, she says, living in Vermont (where she moved to live the skiing life), she’s surrounded by people who took a TKR and came back up the hill. They’re tough souls up there.

“I was very much in the mindset that I’m going to get back to it. So many people here have done it. I focused on their success to lead me to mine,” she said.

Don’t mess with your PT plan: Do whatever your physiotherapist and speech therapist tell you to do – it’s more than those two or three appointments a week.

To help me out, Oliver suggested I get on a stationary bike as often as possible – as soon as it took me a full minute to loosen my joint enough to even do a spin, I did. He suggested that I lower the seat of the bike as much as possible – this stretches the joint more – and pedal whenever I could.

I did, as well as going to a pool for aquatic workouts.

Jackson was the same; dedicated to his plan. It pays off, she says.

For me, losing weight has also been helpful. Oliver suggested to me, before the operation, that even though I had skied well at my current fitness level, if I wanted to ski well afterwards, I might want to work on that more. I did. It paid off.

Be patient : You may have heard a story about the girl who had TKR and hiked and skied Everest the following Tuesday. It’s probably not you – and it might not even be entirely true.

Getting back to skiing after TKR takes time.

“It’s not just a six-month thing,” Oliver said. “It usually takes up to about two years for a full recovery, not just six months or even a year.”

For me, Oliver suggested last winter that there would come a day when I wanted to try. Pick a sunny day with soft snow, he said, and get out there and just do some greens. I did it at the end of February, seven months after my TKR. It was glorious. But, I just knew how to do that.

Jackson had the same experience in January. She took her team’s advice and stuck to grooming and green. She felt fine, but felt a little sore afterwards – more like a “Hey! It’s been a while since we’ve done this!” pain, she said. It’s passing.

But she also had the pleasure of remembering why hard work is worth it: the joy that skiing brings.

“I was nervous, but I kept saying, ‘I’m an advanced skier! I can do it! Do it!’ and then I did,” she said. “It was new snow, mid-week and the first chair. And it was perfection.”

Oliver said he felt fully recovered two years after the two substitutions. His goal now?

“To ski for free at 80,” said the Waterville Valley regular.

And with TKR doing so well — and most things done now should last a lifetime, he said — there may be more like him when they reach that age.

“We will be all titanium streaks instead of silver streaks,” he said.

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