Benefits of Knee Replacement Surgery

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Interviewer:  You mentioned you've undergone two knee replacements, both
knees, not related to running. Can you talk about that experience, what it
was like before you had the surgery and what your life has been like since?

Dick:  Yeah. My knee, I got an infection in my right knee and it was
brutal. Basically, this infection got in there and ate away much of the
knee joint and they had to put a new knee in. Then, my other one, I was in
a bad farming accident and had to have that replaced after 23 years, but
the knee replacement surgery itself is a piece of cake because you're sound

Interviewer:  Sure.

Dick:  It's the six weeks following. I'll be honest with you. Listen. I've
been in the hospital a lot with various accidents and replacing body parts
and rods and wires, and things like that. But the rehab from the knee
replacement, it's brutal. Basically, the day of your surgery, they're
getting you up later that day...

Interviewer:  Wow.

Dick:  ...walking. The key is to get that full range of motion back as much
as you can, to be able to straighten that knee completely out and to bend
it back as far as you can. Let me tell you, scar tissue builds up in there
quickly. After surgery, everything is inflamed so it's very difficult and
it hurts. You're in tears some days, but if you do the work and work
through that... Like, for me now, I've got full range of motion.

They don't bother me. My knees feel so much better than they did before I
had it because it got to the point where it was bone on bone and that just
was brutal. The little bit I could run, every step I took, it hurt. When I
had my first knee done, after about three weeks of not sleeping or very
little, being in constant pain, doing the rehabbing, I'm thinking, "Why did
I have this done?"

But then I got over the hump and then everything started feeling good. When
I had my left one done, I knew what to expect, and that made a little bit
of a difference and so I knew if I just keep working with it, it'll
eventually get better. Now they feel great.

Interviewer:  What's the life expectancy of your knees and does running
change that?

Dick:  Well, that's a good question. Fifteen to 20 years is, say, what the
average person should get under normal use.

Interviewer:  Okay.

Dick:  Now, every orthopedic surgeon will say, "Don't run." My orthopedic
surgeon told me the same thing, "Don't run because you can wear your knees
out quicker." Well, I had my knees done in my early and mid-50s, and so I
thought, "Well, gosh, if I live into my 70s or 80s, or hopefully beyond,
whether I run or not, I'm going to have to have probably new knees again
anyhow." I so love to run and I thought, "I'm going to just see. If I get
out there and I run and my knees just constantly hurt or something happens,
I have to have a revision, then okay I'll ride a bike or row a boat or

I've had one knee in for four years and the other one over two years. I'm
running anywhere from 70 to 90 miles a week and I go in every six months
back to my doctor for x-rays. I was there about three months ago and he
says, "Dick, they look like the day I put them in." Now, he's on board. Now
he's thinking maybe people can do more on these things than originally

Now, again, he told me, "There are two reasons I think that are helping
you. One, you don't have any excess weight, which makes a difference and
then that whole back to the mid-foot, forefoot running without getting
quite as much shock going up into there and stuff. So, we'll see what
happens. I told him, "Hey, I'll be your guinea pig."

I could be out running tomorrow and all of a sudden I hear a clink and
there goes the knee. I'll be the first to say, "Hey, you know what? I guess
I messed it up." Until that happens, I'm enjoying my running like never

Interviewer:  Good.
Dick Beardsley was an elite marathon runner in the 1980's. He still runs today, even after two knee replacements. His knee issues were not related to running, but he's able to run again after the surgeries. Here he discusses the procedure and what his life is like after the surgeries compared to before. He also discusses how long the artificial knees might last.

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