Play On: The Best Sports for a Bad Knee
Sam loved playing basketball. He loved the feel of the ball, the pace of the game, the beauty of a perfectly arched shot, hustling on defense, and most of all, being a member of a team. But then it happened. After he sliced past his defender to make a lay-up, another defender went up to block his shot, and he felt his knee pop. Swelling quickly, he soon limped to the doctor to discover he needed surgery to repair the damage. Though a setback, Sam healed and continued playing after his injury, but then it happened again. After multiple surgeries, Sam started to miss his weekly pick-up games, and then stopped playing altogether. He was afraid of another injury.
When Injuries Prevent You Playing
When you sustain multiple injuries like Sam without the luxury professional players have of highly skilled trainers and doctors at their disposal around the clock, quitting a team sport you love can be a common occurrence. You feel the loss, bu it also may be the smartest thing to do. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all, but somehow working out at the gym isn’t as fun or rewarding as playing a team sport. Does having a chronically bad knee, then, prevent you from participating in sports altogether?
Thankfully, no. Wearing knee braces and stretching prior to a game can help protect that vulnerable knee. But ultimately, you may need to change the sport you play. Although difficult, avoiding another injury and eliminating the fear of competing at the level you want to may be worth it.
What, Then, Can I Do?
So, what sports are best for those with a bad knee? Here are a few to consider adding to your gym routiine. Though not all are team sports, hopefully you’ll find a sport just as satisfying as the one giving up.
Sports Easy on the Knees
- Water Sports: water is a great sport for those with knee problems. Though swimming isn’t a team sport, it puts very little pressure on the joints, and allows you to do it at all ages. If you really miss playing on a team, however, water polo is another option. With water polo, though, you should be careful not to push off the bottom of the pool too aggressively. Water sports also has a further benefit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that exercising in water decreases risk of developing chronic illnesses and improves mental health.
- Rowing: Rowing builds upper body strength and minimizes weight-bearing on your knees. However, it does require you to move your knee in repeated motions, which may cause friction and aggravate some knee injuries. So if your doctor advises you to decrease the amount you move the vulnerable joint, rowing may not be your best option.
- Cycling: Riding a bike is ideal when easing back into exercise. Start slow, gradually increase your speed, and then length, of your rides. If riding upright is uncomfortable for you, recumbent bikes are found in most gyms. Recumbent bikes help reduce arching the back, putting pressure on your sitz bones, and is easier on the knees than upright bikes. Of course, you also lack the team aspect of sport with cycling, but you may find road racing may quench your thirst for competition.
- Wheelchair Sports: Though it may feel strange at first, playing seated sports even when not confined by one can provide different challenges and skills to develop. This may keep the game interesting to you while keeping weight off your knees at the same time. See if your local community wheelchair basketball, hockey or volleyball teams accept players that aren’t disabled. If not, you can always jimmy your favorite sport at home to accomodate the change. In Sam’s case, for example, by getting a few used wheelchairs, lowering the hoop at home, and get a few friends willing to take it up this new challenge with you does the trick.
I know, Sam. It’s not the same. But remember: often when you experience physical limitations, they can open the door to activities you may very well end up loving.
Much better to be open to changes than continuing to suffer injury, don’t you think, Sam?
- Walsh, Kathryn. ‘What Sport Can You Play with Bad Knees?’. April 2, 2015. Accessed July 7, 2016. http://www.livestrong.com/article/554079-what-sport-can-you-play-with-bad-knees/.