Living an active lifestyle is something Jon Kottke, and his wife Lenna, have always enjoyed. As the couple of 52 years started planning out their retirement, they certainly wanted to remain active. Deciding to retire is a tough decision for many people, and certainly true for Jon, the founder of Kottke and Brantz Attorneys at Law, in Boulder.
Kottke retired in 2022 while his colleagues continued running daily operations at the law firm. Eventually, Kottke realized how much he missed his kids and grandkids who live on the east coast. Yet traveling to visit them with his cranky ol’ knee meant more pain and fewer activities. Things like skiing on bluebird days and hiking up steep inclines on his favorite trails nestled in the Rocky Mountains.
Besides his successful career, Kottke’s identity was defined by his active lifestyle and love for the outdoors.
“I’ve always been active and I played football and baseball in high school. Activities have always been a part of my life.”
But thanks to an old sports injury from those earlier days as an athlete, knee pain sidelined his activities.
To ease the pain, he turned to Brian Blackwood, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at BoulderCentre for Orthopedics and Spine, in Boulder. Dr. Blackwood offered various treatment options, including steroid injections. The injections reduced pain temporarily, but eventually, the treatment stopped working altogether.
“The pain eventually got worse over the years and it began to impact my quality of life. Surgery was my last resort,” Kottke said.
After Dr. Blackwood ordered a series of x-rays, he discovered the cause of pain stemmed from bone-on-bone grinding, Kottke said. That’s when the topic of knee replacement surgery became real. Total knee replacement is often used to treat knee pain caused by arthritis. The procedure replaces bone with various metal components that recreate a fully functioning knee.
Kottke decided that surgery was likely the best way to relieve pain, help him remain active and improve his overall quality of life.
“Ultimately, in some respects having a new knee is better than trying to fix up the old knee,” he said.
Alas, the surgery was successful and he began physical therapy right away. Using an at-home ice machine was a lifesaver for him because it helped with pain management and post-op swelling. He had no idea how soon he’d feel like himself — without pain.
“It was just two weeks after surgery and it was a beautiful day. My wife wanted to go to Estes Park to see fall colors,” Kottke said.
So off they went — hopped in the car and cruised up that twisty road to Rocky Mountain National Park.
“I realized I didn’t need my cane. It was so amazing to me that I could be out in that beautiful scenery and fresh air and not have the pain I used to have.”
As he inhaled all that Mother Nature — and glanced at those golden Aspens, Kottke and Lenna decided to take a few steps on a nearby hiking trail. A few steps later, it quickly turned into a small hike of 45 minutes, he recalled.
“I felt a bit of tenderness, but that knee pain and bone-on-bone scraping had gone away. I felt my joint working without intense pain. It was life-changing, not having pain.”
Now that he’s all mended, Kottke recently rekindled his love of skiing. He volunteers as an instructor with disabled skiers at Eldora Mountain. He and Lenna look forward to spending more time visiting their kids and grandkids. The pair plan to jet set off to international lands to explore new playgrounds.
By Elise Oberliesen, AH Luxury
From Dr. Brian Blackwood, Fellowship-Trained Hip & Knee Replacement Specialist at BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine
Coloradans certainly love the outdoors, and hiking is one of our favorite things to do, even after a hip or knee replacement. To fully adapt to the hiking culture, I recommend dynamic stretching before and after your hike to give you the greatest range of motion and to decrease soreness afterward. Dynamic stretches are done right before hitting the trailhead and will prepare your muscles for climbing up and down rocks and managing all the uneven surfaces that the trail will bring.
Dynamic Knee Lift: Stand on a flat surface alternating high knee lifts and gently hug each calf below the knee with both arms. Alternate for 1 minute.
Dynamic Squat: Stand on a flat surface and squat down like you are going to sit in a chair. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions.
Dynamic Quad Stretch: Stand holding your car door or a tree. Keep your feet hip-width apart and lift your leg behind you while reaching back with your arm to lift your ankle toward you and stretch your thigh. Alternate 10 to 20 repetitions.
- If you are a beginner to hiking, practice distance walks on flatter trails before increasing your altitude or level of trail difficulty.
- Always prepare for the weather by wearing appropriate footwear and layers that can be shed or put on depending upon the need.
- Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Adults should plan on at least half a liter for every 1 hour of hiking.
- Enjoy all that beautiful Colorado has to offer.