Purpose and hypothesis: Improvements in pain, function and sports activity are the main goals of patients following total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Participation in sports has become an increasingly important contributor to patients' quality of life (QoL). Hiking is one of the most popular summer activities among elderly people in alpine regions. Consequently, this randomized controlled trial investigates the impact of a 3-month guided hiking programme on patients' functional abilities and QoL following TKA. It was hypothesized that patients who participate in this programme would demonstrate improvements in functional and QoL parameters compared with a control group.
Methods: Forty-eight TKA patients were included and randomized into either the intervention group (IG; n = 25) or the control group (CG; n = 23). The IG participated in a 3-month hiking programme (2-3 times a week), whereas the CG performed activities of daily living. The stair climb test (SCT), QoL questionnaires and isokinetic force measurements were completed at three time points (i.e. pre-test, post-test, retention-test). ANOVAs for repeated measurements were conducted for the SCT results. The Friedman test and the Mann-Whitney U test were performed for the QoL parameters.
Results: After the 3-month hiking programme, the IG achieved faster overall walking times on the SCT. The time decreased from 4.3 ± 0.6 s (pre-test) to 3.6 ± 0.4 s (post-test) for the stair ascent (p = 0.060) and from 3.6 ± 0.6 s (pre-test) to 3.2 ± 0.5 s (post-test) for the stair descent (p = 0.036). The IG showed significant improvement on some of the subscales of the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score from pre-test to retention-test (p < 0.01). In the CG, no significant changes were observed (n.s.).
Conclusions: The results indicate moderate improvement in the functional abilities and QoL of TKA patients who participated in a 3-month guided hiking programme compared with the patients in the CG. Hiking did not have any acute detrimental effects on the TKA patients during this study period.
Level of evidence: II.
Keywords: Functional performance; Hiking; KOOS; QoL; Sports; Total knee replacement; WOMAC.