Diving after knee surgery FAQ

Diving After Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

DAN medics and researchers answer your questions about dive medicine.

I am 24 years old and injured my knee playing soccer. The knee became so painful I had difficulty running. I began to have episodes where my knee would “lock up,” so I saw an orthopedic surgeon and underwent arthroscopy of the knee with subsequent partial resection of my medial meniscus. Several months later I am now running regularly. In addition, I am pain free and my knee no longer locks up, though I have a small area of decreased sensation near one of my scars. I would like to dive later this summer. Can I return to diving, and should I take any specific precautions?
It is good to hear the surgical procedure went well and that you have regained full function and range of motion for your knee. You mentioned that the pain has resolved also. I assume you are pain free at rest as well as during exercise and able to bear weight without any problems. This is especially important as your knee will be stressed when you are geared up and standing on a pitching boat deck or walking on soft sand.
Residual pain that worsens or new pain that results from such stress could be confused with DCS following a dive. If there is residual pain at rest or with exercise or any neurologic deficits, these would need to be considered separately as they would affect your fitness to dive. The small area of decreased sensation around your well-healed surgical wound should not be an issue as long as you are aware of that abnormality and document it. It is important that you relay to your surgeon your intent to return to diving, complete your rehabilitation and be permitted to resume full, unrestricted activity.
When you discuss with the surgeon your desire to dive, describe in detail the stresses you will be putting on the repair associated with finning/swimming and wearing and carrying your gear. There is a theoretical consideration of altered nitrogen uptake and elimination to an area after surgery, but no definitive research has shown any detrimental effects. After successful arthroscopic knee surgery the most important thing is allowing an adequate period to heal and completing rehabilitation before returning to diving.
— James M. Chimiak, M.D.

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