After Two Total Knee Replacements, an Avid Cyclist Gets Back to Pain-Free Riding

Alexander Allen, 51, first discovered bicycle touring during a charitable foundation ride through Central Park in 1988. Now, more than 3 decades later, he has yet to miss a season or riding—even after having total knee replacements in 2020 and 2021 at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital.

On May 1, Allen rides as a marshal in the 2022 TD Five Boro Bike Tour, a 40-mile ride through New York City’s 5 boroughs, less than 6 months after surgery on his left knee in October 2021. He had the right knee replaced a year earlier.

“I’m determined to do what I want to do, no matter what,” says Allen, who rides 800 to 900 miles each year from April to October. He even kept up that pace last year, just months after a total knee replacement. He intends to ride just as much—if not more—this year.

Mortez Mefta, MD, who performed both of Allen’s knee replacements, says Allen’s fast return to bicycling is thanks to both surgical technique and dedication to physical rehabilitation of the joint. Dr. Meftah, an adult reconstruction surgeon and sports health expert at NYU Langone, uses a tourniquet-less gap-balancing technique with kinematic alignment. Studies have shown a reduction in pain and thigh hematoma when this tourniquet is used, enabling patients to experience less pain during physical therapy and recovery. Gap-balancing and kinematic alignment techniques help in restoring the natural movement and functionality of the knee.

Since October, Allen has been working hard to rehabilitate and restore motion to his knee. “After my first knee replacement in 2020, I learned what I need to do to get my knee back in shape,” he says. “This time I worked through some of those same exercises at home and was back on my bike by January to start training.”

“I’m determined to do what I want to do, no matter what.” – Alexander Allen, Age 51

A former chef and resident of the Bronx, Allen takes pride in his collection of high-performance bicycles. Touring, he says, is how he unwinds. “When I get on my bike, that’s my vacation,” he says.

Before becoming an avid cyclist, he enjoyed playing basketball, football, baseball, running track, and more. Sports he said, kept him out of trouble as a young man. Unfortunately, he hit some setbacks due to knee injuries and had surgeries to repair torn ligaments and tendons. According to Dr. Meftah, Allen had developed post-traumatic osteoarthritis and the cartilage in his knees had worn away. He even had a partial right knee replacement previously but waited until he turned 50 for his first total knee replacement.

Alexander Allen and Dr.  Mortez Mefta

Dr. Mortez Mefta helped Alexander Allen get back to cycling after a total knee replacement.

Photo: NYU Langone Staff

By October 2020, after finishing a series of long tours, the pain in his right knee had reached a high point and he consulted with Dr. Meftah on total knee replacement. After surgery, he was back touring in April 2021. While his right knee was finally pain-free, his left started bothering more and more after each ride.

“I know my pain tolerance and pain threshold,” he says. “Most people don’t know themselves until they’ve really pushed their limits.” After tough 50- and 75-mile tours in October 2021, he had replacement surgery for his left knee.

Now, after two successful surgeries and dedication to a strict rehabilitation routine, he says he’s pain-free: “I’m back. I’m 110 percent.”

The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is the unofficial start of the touring season, being the first event in the region. Then he plans a series of tours this year across New York and New Jersey. This summer, though, he’s going even bigger: a multiday, 265-mile ride from his home to Concord, New Hampshire. “I’m mapping it all out now,” he says. “It’s going to be my birthday gift to myself. You just have to treat yourself sometimes.”

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