Ah, summer. It’s 86 degrees out, the sun is strong, and your thoughts naturally turn to cooling off in cool, refreshing water. Maybe it’s jumping off a diving board or the back of a boat, or simply lazing in the pool. When you are an amputee, though, you have questions about your prosthesis. Can it get wet? Will it get damaged if you just dive in? Is any of this covered by your warranty? And, what can you do if wearing your prosthesis is not an option? How will you swim, waterski, and dive without it? Is there such a thing as a prosthetic leg for swimming? ‘
The good news is that you have options. Let’s start with the basics.
While you can provide some minimal water protection for your prosthetic limb by using a cover, it cannot waterproof it. Moreover, if you do get water into your prosthetic device, it can cause rust and damage to the working components and the resulting damage will most likely not be covered by your warranty. There are waterproof prosthetic limbs available, however, these are normally viewed as non-essential, they are often not covered by insurance. A great example of a completely waterproof prosthetic knee is the Ottobock X3, for above knee amputees, which can be submerged and used in nearly any water-based activity. To determine whether your insurance will cover a specialized prosthesis like this, consult your prosthetics provider.
There are water-resistant prosthetic limbs that can protect from minimal water exposure (such as walking through a puddle or a rainstorm), but they fall short of withstanding water immersion, and water damage can still void your warranty. We advise caution here, especially if you are looking for a watersport solution.
There is another alternative to using your prosthesis for swimming or water sports and that’s leaving it at home. In fact, many amputees find that with some modifications, they can plunge right back into water sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, diving, swimming, and boating.
The prospect of adapting to a sport without a limb might be intimidating, especially for those of you with more recent limb loss, but you would be amazed at what you can do with time, practice, and a few adjustments. It’s also an opportunity to just take a break from prosthetic wear and management.
Don’t let concerns about the “how” keep you from enjoying the joys of water in the summer. We’re happy to talk with you about how you can get back out there.