Champion Swimmer Back in the Pool After Knee Replacement

As a Master’s Swimmer for the past 23 years, Rebecca Buckner of Alaska expects top performance from her body. “Swimming is a very important part of my life. I used to compete and I wanted to still be able to do the breaststroke since that’s my preferred stroke,” Buckner said. When the pain in her right knee became more than she could bear, even with modifications to her activity level, she looked into knee replacement surgery.

She contacted  Dr. Ken Mathis, an affiliated orthopedic surgeon with the Joint Center at Memorial Hermann Orthopedic and Spine Hospital  and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.“I chose Dr. Mathis for my knee replacement surgery because he looked me in the eyes, he listened to me and treated me with respect,” she recalled.

After scheduling her surgery, Buckner made the trip to Houston from her home in Alaska. She recalled meeting with the nurse navigator at the Joint Center at Memorial Hermann Orthopedic and Spine Hospital and was impressed with how personable he was and how he made her feel comfortable throughout the process. During her stay at Memorial Hermann, Bucker said she felt very well cared for by all members of the staff she encountered.

“Dr. Mathis explained to me that he wanted me to walk right away after surgery and a certain amount of steps. When I got up and walked, I didn’t have any pain,” Buckner said.

In fact, Buckner ended up doubling her step goal. As proof of her competitive spirit, she said she wished there had been another patient she could have raced around the nurses’ station!

“I’m a pretty good patient so I wanted to do everything I could to ensure a good outcome and get back in the pool,” she said.

To support that goal, Buckner had physical therapy for approximately 12 weeks after her surgery to assist with her recovery. Buckner actually looked forward to her physical therapy appointments where the staff pushed her to do specific activities, such as riding stationary bikes and performing repetitions of squats, to add strength and mobility.

“Dr. Mathis’ skill with knee replacement surgery allowed me to continue to do what I love and what really defines me in an important way,” she said. “My favorite swimming event is the individual medley with all four strokes. My goal was to be able to do a 100- or 200- or 400-meter medley race with a legal breast stroke kick and I’m there as a result of having the surgery to replace my knee.”

Buckner said that while she’s not the athlete that she used to be 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, she’s glad she’s still able to engage in her favorite activity.

“I’m still in the water and doing the best that I can with what I have now. I don’t have any pain with my knee with about 90 percent of flexion,” she said. “To have the ability to walk without limping, to swim, to garden, to take my dog for a walk — I’m more focused on what I can do these days.”

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  1. Highly satisfactory for me with regular physical activities at the age of 79. I have completed 10 km race twice only two years back. But for the past one year I have developed problem with right knee as the ligaments are torn, but there is no pain with my walking of 3km and cycling. But I want to come back to my original shape and again compete in 10 KM race.

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Tashika Varma