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Can I Still Play My Favorite Sports

The short answer is an emphatic YES! If you have been actively involved in a particular sport in recent years, you are encouraged to return as quickly as possible to that sport after your breast cancer surgery and treatment.

Granted, if your favorite sport is highly physical, strenuous and aerobic, it may take some time before you reach your pre-surgical level of play. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t jump right back in where you left it. According to Judith Sherman-Wolin, Exercise Specialist at UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition, “It is absolutely not advised to start in with a vigorous training program” immediately after surgery. You will need to build yourself back up gradually.

Any type of physical activity, even normal daily activities around the house, will help your body stay strong and keep you from losing muscle tone in those first few days after surgery. To get yourself ready to return to your favorite game, whether it is golf, tennis, swimming, skiing or rollerblading, you need to start with the basics. Here are some tips for restoring your body and getting ready to play. Remember that these are basic tips for the average post-mastectomy patient. Please talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

In the hospital, even before the drainage tubes are removed, you can test your range of motion. Raise your arms and circle them in each direction – up, front, down, side-to-side. Be gentle. Don’t risk tearing sutures. Stretch your legs and back at least 3 times a day.

Two weeks after surgery, begin walking at least 20 minutes per day. Continue with arm exercises, adding shoulder shrugs, “chicken flaps” (with bent arms, raise elbows at sides from waist to shoulder), and possibly add very small (1 lb.) arm weights. Build walking endurance, walking faster and farther each day.

Four to six weeks after surgery, keep walking, stretching, and increasing your range of motion. This is the best time to return to sports activities. If you wait too long, you will have lost muscle tone and endurance. Keep it simple, drink lots of water, and stop when you feel tired. Calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR = 220-your age) and don’t exceed 80% of that number. Check your pulse often and if it is nearing the maximum, do some cool down exercises and stop. If your sport is very strenuous, it is recommended that you wear a compression sleeve to help prevent lymphedema.

If you did not have reconstruction, one of the most important factors in readying yourself to return to your game is finding the right prosthesis. Being secure and comfortable in your clothes will go a long way toward making your first post-surgery sports experience a good one. Sports enthusiasts will like attachable forms, as well as the security of pocketed bras. Look for bras made with Coolmax™ pockets, a fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin. If your sport is in the water there are swimsuits made with the latest fashions and fabrics with secure pockets for breast forms or specially made swim forms.

Many women have found that they have a renewed interest in their favorite sport after surgery, and a zest for playing that didn’t exist before. So get out there! Play, get your body back in shape…but above all, ENJOY YOURSELF!