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Playing pickleball after a total knee replacement can take 6 months or more for a full recovery. 

How long is the recovery time for a total knee replacement?

Phase 1 – Day 1 Post Op to 6 Weeks

During the acute, post surgical phase of recovery patients are focused on improving knee range of motion, managing post operative swelling, and regaining basic function.

By the end of this phase patients have usually discontinued the use of a walker and cane, they have returned to driving, they are nearing full range of motion, and are independent with basic functional tasks like dressing, bathing, walking, etc.

Phase 2 – Weeks 7 to 12

At this time the incision has healed and patients are often ready to return to work. Patients are usually starting to work on increased strength and functional performance during this phase. Depending on a patients prior level of activity, by weeks 10 through 12 many patients have been discharged from physical therapy and are back to gym workouts.

Golfers usually start chipping, putting, and hitting a small bucket of balls at the driving range.

Pickleball ball players are usually starting to move around the court and may being practicing some lateral stepping drills.

Phase 3 – Weeks 12 and beyond

While only your surgeon and physical therapist can tell you when it is time to start playing pickleball after your total knee replacement surgery, it is important that you feel comfortable and confident in what your new knee can handle.

How Soon Can You Start Pickleball After A Total Knee Replacement?

Since many patients are returning to work between 6 and 12 weeks after surgery, starting to get back on the court around that same time is a reasonable expectation.

It might take 6 months before you are able to compete at a high level, but in many cases clients who have undergone a total knee replacement weren’t able to compete at a high level before surgery so taking time after surgery to regain your strength, stamina, and mobility on the court is important.

Is pickleball good exercise after a total knee replacement?

Many surgeons will recommend pickleball as a great exercise after total knee replacement surgery. The smaller court and team aspect may reduce impact forces on your new knee which may help preserve the useful life of the implant.

Heavier body weight individuals with a higher BMI might want to limit game play due to possible failure or premature breakdown of the knee replacement components. (Source)

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Best Exercises for Playing Pickleball After Total Knee Replacement Surgery

  1. Lateral Lunge – When performing a lateral lunge the intention is to perform a slow and controled motion. The lateral lunge is intended to build stability in the lateral structures of the knee. It is not a speed or eactive exercise.
  2. Cross Over Stepping – This exercise is intended to improve stepping in different directions that may simulate what you would do on the pickleball court. Cross over stepping may be performed by stepping your surgical leg across you non-surgical let in front and then behind.
  3. Desceleration Stepdowns – Descelerating your body’s momentum is critical to any sport. Intentionally focusing your attention to desceleration after stepping forward, sideways, and back will help you and your new knee prepare for these forces while playing pickleball.
  4. Single Leg Balance – This exercise is intended to build hip, knee, and ankle stability. Walking requires single leg stance for approximately 60% of your time. Being able to control the hip and ankle while standing on one leg will help reduce some of the forces your new knee will face.

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Playing Pickleball After A Total Knee Replacement

I had both knees replaced 3 months apart 3 years ago, I was playing like Dan Ewing at about 5 weeks, walking slowly not over extending , chasing drop shots or lobs . Now I can pretty much do what I could before without the pain. I can recover faster after a day of play.
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The Kitchen - A Pickleball Community

I had the right one done in Nov 2018. Left one done Feb 2021.
I was back on the court at 5 weeks post-op in both cases, playing “walking pickleball” (not chasing lobs, not running up ftom the baseline for drops, not running wide for ATPs, etc.) It took about 3 months to get back to full speed. But I tend to make my PTs nervous in how hard I push things.
For demographics, age at surgery was 44 and 46. I play 4.0 or 4.5, depending on who I can find as a partner.
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The Kitchen - A Pickleball Community

I have had both knees replaced one done six years out and the other 4 years out. I play six days a week. I play in tourneys all over the place and do very well playing 60 plus 4.0 mixed and doubles. I even play 3.5 singles y from time to time. After my first knee replacement it took 8 weeks before I was playing again. Second was 6 1/2 weeks.
Inspiration for me was I was going to get better and be able to do most anything. Running and jumping is out. One side note an athlete through college and coached for 31 years. So my knees were really shot.
Great Docs, great rehabilitation people and a great wife did not hurt. Days were long sometimes. But months went fast. I feel so lucky my surgery has been such a success.
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The Kitchen - A Pickleball Community