kayaks and knees

I have recently had a leg salvaging surgery done on my right leg, this has caused me to have a really weak right knee. I am supose to avoid putting to much stress on that knee and am curious if kayaking could be a good activity for me. I know that your legs stay inside the kayak but how much work do they actually do? basically i want to know can i get into kayaking wiht out putting to much stress on my knees?


– Last Updated: Feb-12-06 5:53 AM EST –

I think the most stress you'll deal with is getting in and out of the boat. Check out a dealer and just get in and out of some boats. Also be prepared to improvise some support. A rolled up towel under your thigh or knee might make a big difference in comfort.

i’m probably preaching to the choir here, but are you not going to physical therapy for that knee? nobody should be left with a “weak” knee such that it inhibits your life.

take this from a guy who’s recently had major surgury on both shoulders and cannot paddle at all. BUT … i’m going to therapy three days a week and will continue until i can paddle again if it takes years.

that said, get an open cockpit kayak like some that others have mentioned, or a sit on top. per Kudzu, getting in and out will be your biggest hurdle but you CAN DO IT.

Or get a light weight solo canoe.
You wouldn’t have as much strain on your knees getting in and out of the boat and the lighter weight wouldn’t be as much strain on you knee when dragging or carrying the boat.

consider a small open canoe
They weigh less and are easier to carry …

They’re easier to get in and out of …

And you won’t have to worry about instinctively pushing off with your knee when bracing as your knee will be nowhere near the side of the hull because you’ll be sitting upright on a proper seat, just like god intended.

As an added bonus, in an open canoe you can move around and adjust your sitting position instead of having to keep your butt firmly planted in the butt-holding seat of a kayak.

I’ve had 4 knee surgeries…
…Part of the problem is the loading and

unloading of the boat from your car and any

portaging you might have to do.

Check with your
Dr and PT. They should be able to help you the best. Not putting anyone down in here but that is thier jop. Just might not go over well with Dr or PT if youhurt yourself and you say well everyone on paddle.net said it was ok to do.

knee experience
We are both in the “zipper club” having had knee surgury and have found that the foot brace position is really the key Too short or too long can place lateral tweak on the knees. But more than anything is the ANGLE of your foot on the brace and how that aligns or mis-aligns your hips and then knees. Mark found that getting rid of the foot braces and using foam against the bulkhead totally solved any knee pain. I found that leaving my right footbrace out one notch longer than my left solved my problems along with using a stiffer soled paddling shoe. You need to sit in the kayak and have your hips-knees and ankles naturally align and not force them cause that is how people get numb butts and feet in our opinion. We were lucky to have a good outfitter help us early on with adjustments to our comfort issues so make sure you shop at a real kayak expert and not a Walmart type shop.

Amen to that.

3 votes for a canoe. A lot easier to
get in and out of than any kayak.

Canoe vs Kayak
I might point out that while it is easier to get in a canoe you will probably end up down on your knees while you paddle.

WW Canoe vs Flat Water
A white water canoe that is set up with a pedestal will force the paddler to rest upon their knees.

A flat water canoe with a comman wicker seat will be much more forgiving.

on his knees?
The only time I drop to my knees is in serious white water.

If this guy is looking for an adrenaline rush and plans to do whitewater with a bad knee I don’t think we can help him.

WS Pungo - WS Pamilco - or Canoe
All of these have large open cockpits that will be easiest to enter or exit. The Pungo is best for lakes and bays, because it has a V shaped bottom so it can handle mild waves easily. The pamlico is better for shallows and rivers because it has a rounded shallow draft bottom.

The canoe may be the best bet for ease of access, comfort,and all around usefulness.

Get A SOT, T-160… Much easier on the Knees then any SINK…

physical therapy can help but
I agree with you phsyical therapy can help tremendously but it really does depend on what the original problem was.

I had torn knee cartlidge and torn ligaments.

Water aerobics under an excellent leader who also had rehabilitated her knees more than once, did helped considerably. Then I had surgery. The pain is gone but the weakness is permanent.

Best of luck to you with the shoulders.

Everyone of us is different and although our challenges may sometimes be similar, they are still our own.

Bad knee exits use paddle as cane
Sometimes I just have to roll out of the Pungo and make a wet exit.

I found that breaking down the old cheap paddle and using it for support by sticking it down in the mud helps for a dryer exit.

If someone in your group sits on the front of your kayak to stable it as you exit, this helps tremendously.

Exiting wet in cold water aggravates my asthma sometimes so I have learned that I must relax and not get nervous or self conscious about my knee, my weight, or whatever in the process of getting out of the kayak or getting it back to the top of my van.

The Pungo has plenty of room to stretch out your knee if need be. Sometimes I have to, other times they are fine with my feet on the foot rests.

A too small kayak once gave me, among other more serious problems, sciatica and leg cramps.

legs optional
I went to an adaptive paddling workshop this summer where we ended up getting two parapelegics and a double amputee on the water. Nothing high-tech – the boat adaptations were all foam and duct tape. Don’t be afraid to modify the boat to make it comfortable for you.

Paddling and healing…
There are a lot of good suggestions offered so far. I had a knee replacement a little over two years ago. So…I am particularly aware of the muscles in my legs (particularly my thighs) and how paddling a kayak effects those muscles.

I would first highly recommend checking with your doc and P.T. to see if you have any important limitations at this time…then just work around them and go do what you love to do.

As you already know, pursuing your passion is incredibly healing to the body and spirit…as is smiling. And…you will smile every time you engage in an activity that feels good.

I would recommend going to an excellent paddle shop where you can demo all types of kayaks and canoes. Check out what it feels like to enter, and exit the boats on land. Exiting the boats on water will be easy. Check out the impact upon the leg muscles when lifting the kayak onto the roof of your car. If you can enter/exit the boat adequately enough, but have difficulty with the weight of the boat you choose(in terms of lifting/transporting)…consider purchasing a cart. You can also look at both Thule and Yakima who have interesting contraptions (Hullavator?) that will lift boats onto the roofs of vehicles.

If you end up choosing a kayak, consider the different cockpit types. You may find a keyhole cockpit easier to enter/exit…though may find that the thigh hooks put too much pressure on your thigh (I do). Or…if you can enter/exit an ocean cockpit with relative ease, you may find that padding out the underside of the foredeck might work best for you.

In your case, I would highly recommend your evaluating these boats with a rather experienced paddlers who knows all of the ins and outs of cockpits, padding, paddling style. And, before purchasing you might want to take a few lessons with a seasoned instructor and learn how to exit and re-enter. The typical paddle re-entry may be tough on your leg…and there are other options.

The actual kayak paddling process will indeed place stress on your thigh muscles…more so than a canoe. But then again, for you a kayak may be more comfortable to enter (it was for me when my thigh muscle was weak).

It is worth it to get some individualized assessment from your healthcare professionals, and then a competent paddling intructor.

However you go…GO FOR IT! It is all part of the healing process…and living a good life!



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