When can I resume playing racquetball?

Hi, all, and thanks for this wonderful, informative website. I have had A-fib for 7 years, well controlled for the past 2 years with Flecainide. Having been diagnosed more recently with branch block disease and slow conductivity, I was advised that, since Flecainide, by design, slows the signals down, it was contraindicated with conductivity disease, unless a pacemaker was inserted. I had the procedure done on January 27th, and am now the proud owner of a Medtronic Azure XT DR MRI.

The procedure went off without a hitch, and at my followup 3 weeks later, I mentioned that the lower cap of 60 bpm was higher than my typical resting heart rate, and it was lowered to 50. I now hit 50 about 20% of the time when I'm sitting or lying around, which is fine.

I have been a competitive racquetball player for 45 of my 75 years, playing 2 or 3 times a week, often with people half my age (occasionally even a third my age.) I play singles almost exclusively, not falling into the doubles game that requires much, much less energy.

Having heard all the warnings from the doctors about wires getting yanked out of my heart, I have obeyed the admonitions and have limited the movement of my left arm, both upwards and behind me, and the leads in my heart haven't budged. Since the device is on my left side and I am right handed, I'm thinking that as I approach the critical 6 week milestone this week, I should be just about ready to resume my games. I would appreciate any thoughts, pro or con, on the subject.





by Tracey_E - 2023-03-08 08:28:40

Have you asked your doctor? Mine says 4-6 weeks for most activity, 3 months for a full golf swing. I'd say racquetball falls somewhere in the middle. I went back to the gym at 4 weeks but it was a good 3 months before I was doing my full routine without any twinges or being careful of my device. So my not a professional but been around this block opinion is go for it, but ease into it. Play some easy games and see how you feel. 

When can I resume playing racquetball

by NJBoy - 2023-03-08 10:02:57

Thanks for the response, Tracey. I have spoken to the EP who recommended the implant, the surgeon who performed the procedure, my long-term cardiologist, and the RN technician who did my followup tweaking. The latter said that, since I'm right-handed, I can play right away. She must think my left arm sits limply at my side while I play, instead of being used for balance. 
The cardiologist said that healing is complete after 4 months; there would be no difference between 4 months and a year. He didn't say that I had to wait the full 4 months, just said to be cautious and take it easy. 
The EP and the surgeon both suggested that it would be okay to start at an easy level at 6 weeks. 
I've been walking up steep hills in my neighborhood and going hard on the elliptical without any problems with heart rate or breathlessness. My only worry is that swinging a racquet could pull out a lead. 
I think that your common sense advice is probably closest to my own thoughts. Thanks again.


by docklock - 2023-03-08 12:26:55

I'm a lot more conservative than some on this forum, so take my opinion as you will.

Personaly, I would wait maybe a couple more weeks before going full tilt at racqetball.  Pulling out or disloging a wire is gonna take another 3-5 weeks of healing time, plus the possibility of infection, soreness etc.

If you must, why not just start by playing 'solo' and hitting the ball up against the walls to get a feel for it again??. 

I just like the odds more in my favor. 


by NJBoy - 2023-03-08 13:42:05

Thank you. Playing solo is where I will start. At the very least, it will increase my chances of winning. 😀


by Lavender - 2023-03-08 18:16:11

A sure winner when there's no competition 🙌🏼lol!

Right handed

by AgentX86 - 2023-03-08 23:10:08

The restrictions on tennis and golf is the over-extension of the shoulder.  I may be wrong but I don't see racquetball being as violent as a full overhead tennis service or full golf swing.  The tennis service restriction only applies to a PM on the dominant side, which is sorta where you are. 

Even though you use your left arm for balance, the left shoulder won't have the same motion as your right.  I'd be more concerned about falling on that shoulder, hyperextending it that way.

Ask your doctors but I'd think that three months would be plenty. Golfers are told that they can do chip-n-putt after the four to six weeks and a full swing three to six months after. It would seem that this would be a good approach. Start slowly.


by NJBoy - 2023-03-09 00:17:16

Thanks for the input, AgentX86. (Maxwell X Smart?)You are correct in that a racquetball serve is not as violent as a tennis serve. The ball must bounce once (and only once) before being struck. It's usually struck when low to the floor, although I have, upon occasion, tossed the ball quite high and hit it much like a tennis serve. There is also a lob serve which I use most of the time which puts almost no pressure on any body parts. I will stick with that exclusively until I feel more confident. 

I will also throw away the knee pads and stop diving for balls. If I can't get there by bending down, so be it.

knee pads

by Tracey_E - 2023-03-09 10:24:31

Maybe don't throw them away, just store them for a couple of months. 

Knee Pads

by NJBoy - 2023-03-09 10:50:38

Maybe I could wear the knee pads (much) higher up, to cover the pacemaker. 


by Tracey_E - 2023-03-09 13:08:38

They make pads to cover the device but imo they're unnecessarily bulky and not necessary for most of us. If you think there's a good chance you'll get an elbow or racket to the device, you might want to check it out. I've taken several very hard hits over the years. We bruise, the pacer keeps on pacing. They are titanium and much more sturdy than we are. 

Racquetball safety

by NJBoy - 2023-03-09 14:31:49

In the 45 years I've been playing, I've been hit with a racquet only a handful of times. Getting hit with the ball is far more common but far less serious. And even that becomes rare if you play in a friendly game, as I do, where safety trumps winning. 
When your opponent hits you with the ball, you are always in front of him, and almost always get hit in the back of your body, or, possibly, the side. It would be rare to be turned and facing him, with your front exposed. Obviously, if he's in front of you, he's not going to hit you since he's hitting the ball towards the front wall. The one exception is if the ball is behind him and he tries to reach the front wall by hitting it off the back wall. Experienced players know not to stand directly behind their opponent when this is a possibility.

By far the most likely way to get hit with a ball in the front of your body, including your face, is via a self-inflicted shot, against the back wall, hard, to attempt to reach the front wall with the shot. If you are not sufficiently sideways and a few feet separated from the spot on the wall, it is not uncommon to smack the ball into the back wall from a few feet away and, before you've finished your swing, get nailed as it comes back off the wall. I have done this on more than a few occasions, praising my goggles when I get hit in the face, and wishing I was wearing a cup when I got hit in a lower region.

Of course, before getting a pacemaker, the upper torso was a benign area in which to take a hit, at worst causing a little welt or black and blue mark that would disappear in a week or so. (The running joke, if you get hit hard, was that the ball would mark you with a tattoo of NOLETKE or NNEP, depending on whether you were using an EKTELON or a PENN ball.)

But now, with the pacemaker, the upper chest is the last place I'd want to get hit. Okay, second to last, but still bad. I have seen the ads for the various shirts with strategically placed pockets into which one puts various shields of plastic and/or foam rubber. I have wondered about the bulkiness. I may just try to figure out if it's reasonable to tape a piece of foam rubber, like a piece of a knee pad, around and over the pacemaker. Alternatively, maybe sewing it onto my shirt. I usually sweat through 2 or 3 of them when playing, so that could entail a lot of sewing.

Getting hit

by AgentX86 - 2023-03-09 17:03:35

If you get hit square on the PM, you'll certainly know it.  It's not going to damage the PM but you will remember it for some time.  You might want to try one of the pads (they're advertised on this site) but since you don't wear a cup...

AgentX86 is a play on both Smart and the Intel processor.  I once attended an Intel conference and though I worked in a group that was a (annoying but minor) competetor. Intel assumed that I worked in the division what was a very large customer. I was there to see get an early look at the technology that was going to be driving the PC market over the next several years.  Anyway, my admission was paid before the customer group's so I was invited to a rubber chicken dinner for large customers hosted by Intel execs, including Andy Grove (Intel CEO at the time). Hence the Agent and X86. The name sorta stuck (maybe it fit too well).

You know you're wired when...

You trust technology more than your heart.

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A pacemaker completely solved my problem. In fact, it was implanted just 7 weeks ago and I ran a race today, placed first in my age group.