We're often asked if sleeves can keep water from seeping through your socket and sadly, the answer is no—chlorine can ruin your prosthetic along with its accessories. If you're a lower limb amputee looking to go for a dip in the pool this summer, you came to the right place! There are several options available, so you can beat the heat and spend some time by the poolside.
(photo courtesy of Ottobock)
Water Prosthetic Legs
Avoid premature corrosion by exposing your prosthesis to water. Water legs, such as the Aulie knee, X3 microprocessor knee, and Aqua-Foot, are just some of the devices that you can completely submerge in water. Others, like the C-Leg 4, are merely water-resistant, meaning they can only tolerate a limited amount of water exposure (i.e., walking in the rain).
The great thing about water legs is that it's easy to move in and out of the pool and you don't need to worry about where to place your prosthetic legs. However, most insurance companies don't include them in their coverage plans, so additional care is required from your end. Water resistance may also make it hard to bend and straighten out your prosthetic knee.
Old or Back-Up Prosthesis
While this is more of an affordable option, it's like using a very high mileage car for a 24-hour road trip—it's risky and not advisable. It's very rare for people to have back-up prosthetic limbs that are fully functional and that properly fit, as there is a reason why they're no longer in use.
A quick fix for below-knee amputees would be a waterproof cover such as Dry Pro. It's a practical and easy alternative that won't require you to use a separate prosthesis. The downside is that this option is not available for above knee prosthetics. If the seal is compromised, your prosthesis may still be in danger of getting damaged.
Many amputees may choose to forego their prosthesis in the pool and use wheelchairs or crutches during transfers. Some individuals living with limb loss actually prefer swimming without their prosthesis. Also, avoiding water and not putting your prosthetic limb at risk will obviously prolong the life of your artificial limb. Remember to practice utmost care—crutches may slip and hinder movement, and know that wheelchairs are more often used at the beach.
Tips to Enjoy Swimming Pools
Choose pools that have railings, lifts, and zero-threshold graduated entry options to make it easier for you to get in and out. You can call ahead and ask if your community pool offers these amenities. If you wish to combine exercise with fun, you can use foot and hand flippers to increase your speed while doing laps in the pool. Lastly, have fun and stay confident—after all, it's summer! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy the long days of sunshine whether in or out of the pool.