What to Expect from a Knee Replacement, According to a Surgeon


We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Keith Berend, one of North America’s top 22 knee surgeons for two consecutive years, to discuss knee and hip replacements and their impact on pickleball play. If you have any additional questions for Dr. Berend after reading our conversation, let us know in the comments, and we’ll consider a follow-up article!

Introduction to Dr. Keith Berend

PBU: Do you play pickleball? What got you into it?

Dr. Berend: My 80-year-old stepmother plays pickleball nearly every day, and she introduced our family to the sport several years ago. Since then, we played intermittently until the pandemic halted elective surgeries. My partner, who lives nearby, and another associate, who lives up the street, both installed pickleball courts in their driveways. We played nearly every evening through the summer of 2020 and continue to enjoy the game as a family, especially during vacations.

PBU: Can you tell us about your medical background?

Dr. Berend: I graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, and attended Duke University for medical school, where I also completed my orthopedic residency training. Following that, I undertook an adult reconstruction hip and knee replacement fellowship in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been practicing hip and knee replacement surgery since 2002 with JIS Orthopedics, a rebranded practice that now provides comprehensive musculoskeletal care, including sports medicine, spine, hand, shoulder, and, of course, hip and knee surgery.

Evolution of Knee Replacement Surgery

PBU: How has knee replacement surgery evolved since you started practicing?

Dr. Berend: When I began practicing in 2002, patients typically stayed in the hospital for several days post-surgery. Over the past 18 years, pain management and mobility have improved significantly. Today, nearly all our knee replacement surgeries are performed as outpatient procedures at freestanding ambulatory surgery centers. This allows patients to be mobile and return home the same day. We’ve performed over 11,000 outpatient replacements in the last 7-8 years, proving it to be safe and successful. While the implants themselves haven’t changed dramatically, the surgery’s performance through less invasive techniques, better pain management, and outpatient procedures are the remarkable innovations of the last two decades.

Indications for Knee Replacement

PBU: What are the common reasons for considering a knee replacement?

Dr. Berend: Significant arthritis in the knee that interferes with quality of life is a primary reason for considering knee replacement surgery. Active individuals, including those who enjoy pickleball, often seek intervention to improve their quality of life when their ability to play and enjoy the sport is compromised. Conservative options like weight loss, activity modification, injections, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy are always recommended first. However, once these measures fail, joint replacement becomes a viable option.

Recovery and Return to Activity

PBU: What can a pickleball player expect post-knee replacement?

Dr. Berend: Recovery from a knee replacement generally takes about six weeks to regain a reasonable level of function. Running and cutting may take up to 12 weeks, with full recovery potentially taking up to a year. I advise my active patients, especially those who enjoy pickleball, that they can return to light play, such as dinking, at 6 to 8 weeks and gradually progress to a more normal game as their recovery advances.

PBU: What is the recovery process like, and can patients return to their previous level of play?

Dr. Berend: We reserve joint replacement surgery for patients whose arthritis significantly impacts their quality of life. Most patients find their ability to play and enjoy pickleball is diminished, which prompts them to seek surgery. Post-recovery, these patients often return to the sport they love at an equal or even higher level than before their surgery.

Success Stories and Final Thoughts

PBU: Do you have any notable success stories of patients returning to pickleball after a knee replacement?

Dr. Berend: While no specific case comes to mind, the increasing popularity of pickleball means more patients report that it’s an essential part of their daily activities. Particularly during the winter months, many patients who travel to Florida return with stories of injury or discomfort affecting their quality of life while playing pickleball. It’s gratifying to help them return to comfortable play and an improved lifestyle.

PBU: Any advice for staying active in older age?

Dr. Berend: Staying active is crucial for maintaining a good quality of life at any age. Activities like pickleball, being outdoors, enjoying time with friends, and engaging in sports that can be played by all ages are incredibly important. Movement is essential for overall well-being and happiness.

In our insightful conversation with Dr. Keith Berend, we delved into the intricacies of knee and hip replacements, particularly focusing on their impact on pickleball enthusiasts. Dr. Berend’s extensive experience and innovative approach to orthopedic surgery have significantly enhanced the quality of life for many patients, enabling them to return to the activities they love, such as pickleball.

From understanding the evolution of knee replacement surgery to recognizing the common indications for such procedures, Dr. Berend provided valuable insights into the advancements and benefits of modern orthopedic practices. His emphasis on the importance of staying active, regardless of age, underscores the critical role of movement in maintaining overall well-being and happiness.

For those considering knee replacement surgery, Dr. Berend’s expertise and compassionate approach offer reassurance that recovery can lead to a return to not only normal activity but potentially an even higher level of performance. As pickleball continues to gain popularity, the ability to enjoy this sport post-surgery is a testament to the advancements in medical science and patient care.

If you have any further questions for Dr. Berend or would like us to explore additional topics, please let us know in the comments. Your feedback is invaluable, and we look forward to bringing you more expert insights in future articles. Stay active, stay healthy, and keep enjoying the game!

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Written by Billy Pickles

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