Can you go swimming with a prosthetic leg? Yes, being an amputee doesn't stop you from enjoying the water. At PrimeCare, we design custom prosthetics in Albuquerque & Las Cruces so patients can lead active lives. If you need a swimming prosthesis, we're happy to help.
But first, here's a brief primer on what you need to know about swimming prostheses and swimming as an amputee.
Taking the Plunge: Amputee Swimming
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that provides numerous physical and mental health benefits. It is particularly beneficial for strengthening the cardiovascular system, improving flexibility, increasing muscle strength, relieving pressure, and advancing circulatory functions.
Even if you have had an amputation, you can still enjoy swimming safely.
The water's buoyancy supports the body's weight, meaning there is no impact force on the residual limb. If you are new to swimming following an amputation, consider joining a special program for people with physical disabilities offered by recreation centers. Such a program can teach you modified swimming techniques and how to enter and leave the pool safely.
Prosthetic Limb Safety for Water Activities
Most prosthetic limbs are splash resistant and can withstand stepping in a puddle and other minor exposures. However, swimming with a prosthetic leg can cause damage to the working components, particularly those that contain microprocessors and any metal parts that can rust.
Therefore, you should always check if your artificial limb is water-resistant. If not, you have options to consider. For instance, you can purchase a waterproof cover to slip over the prosthesis, forming a watertight seal.
However, the cover may be bulky, and the seal can break, by putting the prosthetic at risk of water damage. Another opportunity is to use an old prosthetic limb for swimming, knowing that it can deteriorate. This is the most comfortable, but only if you have an old prosthesis available.
Prosthetic Possibilities for Swimming
If it's your first time swimming since your amputation, we recommend swimming indoors firstly. Visit a pool with railings, lifts, and zero-threshold graduated entry options. This will make it easier for you to enter and exit. There are a couple of variants available when it comes to swimming.
For below-knee amputees, waterproof covers provide a convenient and waterproof solution that eliminates the need for a separate prosthetic. However, this option is not accessible for above-knee prosthetics. If the seal is broken, the prosthesis still will be vulnerable to damage.
Prosthetic Limbs for Water
A swim prosthesis is designed to make it effortless for people to get in and out of the water. They are built with corrosive-resistant materials to protect the moving parts from water. Additionally, some of them feature extra traction on the foot to provide stability on slippery surfaces. Prosthetic limbs are designed for swimming and various water sports, such as surfing and diving.
Old or Back-Up Prosthesis
While affordable, this option isn’t recommended, as it is uncommon for people to have backup prosthetic limbs that are in good condition and fit properly. The reason they are no longer in use is likely due to their age or lack of functionality.
Waterproof Prosthetic Legs
Waterproof prosthetic legs offer the advantage of easy movements in and out of the pool with no need to worry about where to place them. Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not offer coverage. In addition, a prosthetic leg for swimming could make bending and straightening your prosthetic knee more difficult.
Amputee Swimming Without a Prosthetic Limb
Individuals with limb loss may opt to leave their prostheses out of the pool and use wheelchairs or crutches to get in and out of the water. It is important to take care of your prosthetic limb by avoiding water, as it can cause damage and reduce the lifespan of your prosthesis. When using crutches or wheelchairs, be sure to practice caution. Crutches can be slippery and impede movement, and wheelchairs are more suitable for the beach.
Tips to Enjoy Swimming with a Prosthetic Leg
With the right tools and a little determination, you can learn how to enjoy the thrill of the water and the freedom of motion that comes with swimming with prosthetic legs. Here's how to get the most out of swimming with a prosthetic leg.
- Keep your swimming leg prosthesis clean and dry when not in use;
- Clean your prosthetic swimming leg with mild soap and warm water after swimming;
- Do not leave your prosthetic water leg in chlorinated water for extended periods of time;
- Use a waterproof cover to protect your prosthetic leg while swimming;
- If you have a prosthetic liner, remove it while swimming and reattach it when finished;
- Tighten the straps on your prosthetic leg before swimming to ensure a secure fit;
- Avoid rough surfaces or sharp objects when swimming with your prosthetic leg;
- Wear a flotation device for extra protection and support if necessary;
- Consider using a waterproof cast protector to protect the skin around your prosthetic leg from rubbing or irritation.
Swimming with Prosthetics: How PrimeCare Can Help
At PrimeCare Prosthetics, we are dedicated to providing our patients with the guidance and support they need throughout amputation and prostheses. If you need guidance about getting a waterproof prosthesis or general advice, we can help.
From pre-operation to rehabilitation, our team of experienced experts is available for a free consultation to answer any questions you may have. Let us help you every step of the way. Contact us for more information.