Orthopedist Questions Ankle Surgery

Will I be able to swim again after ankle replacement?

I'm having ankle arthroplasty done because of arthritis. Now, I swim a lot but I'm nervous I won't be able to if my ankle is more delicate after the procedure. What is recovery like?

24 Answers

It is difficult to predict the ability to participate in an activity not having the details of your surgery but I certain hope you will be able to continue the activities you enjoy.
There’s no problem
What is your level of activity now?
There is no reason why you would not be allowed to swim, but the range of movement after ankle replacement would not be as full as normal and so it would be difficult to point your toes as normal when swimming.=20
Andrew Cobb
Swimming should not significantly stress your ankle replacement.
I am not that familiar with ankle arthroplasty, my experience is that they do not work well in very active individuals, however swimming would be the best rehab exercise I could think of for this procedure
Thank you for your question.

I do not perform ankle arthroplasty, so I cannot comment on the recovery. My advice is to ask your surgeon for recommendations regarding resumption of specific activities, as each surgeon has his or her own protocols. I do allow my hip, knee, and shoulder arthroplasty patients to return to swimming after surgery once their incisions are completely healed. I am a strong advocate for the benefits of water based exercise.

Take care.
The general answer is yes, swimming should be OK once your incisions are healed and you are cleared by your surgeon, typically 3 weeks from surgery. Recovery is variable for Total ankle replacement, but typically it takes 1 year to reach maximal improvement from the surgery. Good luck.

To your musculoskeletal health,

Dr. T
Ankle arthroplasty, although a considerable surgery, should not preclude you from swimming after your operation. In fact, swimming is probably the best form of exercise for post lower extremity surgical patients. Swimming is a low load exercise across the ankle joint provided you are careful when pushing off the wall in a pool during flip turns. Obviously, do not partake in any exercise without first being cleared to do so by your operative surgeon.
Thomas A Dwyer, MD
Recovery is going to vary depending on the condition of your ankle and several other factors. My best advise would be to talk to your doctor and/or surgeon on their protocol and what to expect after your surgery.
Sorry I am a spine specialist. Need to talk to foot and ankle surgeon
My interest is really in spine surgery.
As with all joint replacement surgery, the goal is pain relief without risking any function or range of motion for that particular joint. Ankle arthroplasty is still quite rare and there isn't as much data present that seriously looks at return to sports after ankle arthroplasty. I suspect that swimming with a flutter kick or breast stroke kick will be limited however I do not think it would pose any significant deterrent for participating in most swimming activities. As long as the thigh and hip musculature are equally strong to the contralateral side, the kicking power in the water should not be affected.
This should be answered by your operating surgeon.
Ankle arthroplasty is performed in order to treat then pain of arthritis and maintain motion in the ankle. After ankle replacement you will need to avoid high impact exercise including running in order to maximize the longevity of the implants. Swimming is considered low impact and is an ideal exercise after lower extremity arthroplasty. Other low impact aerobic exercises include bicycle and elliptical trainer.
Recovery is going to be different for every patient. It is best to be open with your doctor and speak with them on what to expect for your recovery.
Swimming is a great activity after ankle arthroplasty. It will be a while before you can get in the water though. Anticipate at least 2 weeks before you can get the ankle wet and if you are in a cast it will be 6 weeks before you can get in the water. Ask for a boot if that is a possibility. And specifically ask your surgeon what he recommends for immersing the foot and ankle.
For your recovery after ankle replacement, you need a specific program with measures to reduce swelling after the surgery and a mobilization therapy by specialized physiotherapists. Stage related medical training treatment (MTT) will follow. This will give you stability and control over your ankle and foot. All these procedures will take place between 4 - 8 weeks, depending on your individual case. Swimming will be possible and is highly recommended after ankle arthroplasty.
Some of my best results come from total ankle patients who begin swimming for rehab as early as postop week 5. For me, immediate 20% weight bearing, then 50% weight bearing at postop week 5, then full weight bearing in regular shoes by week 10.
This would be difficult to answer not being the surgeon who will perform it.

You need to ask your surgeon regarding limitations and what your recovery will look like.
The usual recovery is 6 weeks on crutches non weight bearing, followed by 6 weeks of weight bearing in a walking boot with PT focused on regaining range of motion and strength. At the six week point, I usually allow my patients to begin pool exercises, but being careful with push-offs during lap changes. Hope this helps and best of luck in your recovery!
Stay positive and think good things about your surgery and the weeks after surgery. Healing the wound is the first step (some of this is out of your control, while other aspects are within your control). Getting rid of the pain and swelling is the second phase. Then getting your range of motion back, followed by your condition, endurance, tone, flexibility, and strength. Once the motion has returned enough (4-8 weeks), and the wound is fully healed (2-3 weeks), then you should be able to swim (assuming you can swim before the proposed procedure). People will continue to get better for up to a year after this type of surgery (before they are 'as good as they will get'.
No reason why you shouldn't be able to once you have recovered from surgery.
You can swim, but don't jump into the pool. Use the stairs. Recovery is 3 months.