Returning to sport after hip replacement

returning to sport after hip replacementIf you’re an active person and enjoy getting outside and exercising, the thought of undergoing an operation such as a hip or knee replacement might seem daunting. People may wonder whether their days of exercising are over, but with the right approach to rehabilitation after an operation, there is no reason why undergoing a joint replacement should stop you participating in the exercise that you enjoy.

At the recent Fortius International Sports Injury Conference, orthopaedic specialist Mr Simon Bridle presented an insightful piece on the changing attitudes, desires and limitations of returning to sport after undergoing a significant joint operation.

Evolving knowledge

Over the years, surgeons have increased their knowledge of how to perform successful hip and knee replacements in humans. Through decades of research and many, many operations, surgeons have been learning about what works well, and what doesn’t, and developing materials, procedures and recommendations accordingly.

In the 1960s, doctors were performing total hip replacements, however these tended to be in elderly and disabled patients, with a view that it was a ‘salvage procedure’, rather than something that would offer them an enhanced quality of life.

Nowadays, there has been a threefold increase in the number of patients in the UK and the USA who are opting for hip replacements, many of whom have a desire to remain active after their operation. With new, much more effective pain relief, patients are often able to push themselves further in the days, weeks and months after a total hip replacement, and begin the road to rehabilitation and recovery.

Getting back on the bike….

…or into the swimming pool, or into your walking shoes….

There has also been a shift in patients’ mentality regarding how active they expect to be following an operation like this. Mr Bridle reports that 35% of hip replacement patients do sport pre-operatively, and the desire to return is major expectation.

Whereas high impact sports come with significant risks of damaging a prosthetic joint, low impact sports can be good for building up your muscles, keeping healthy and maintaining good mental wellbeing too.

The prosthetic joints that replace worn out, arthritic, natural joints have also improved significantly through years of testing, advances in research and the benefit of medical data. The bearings are now designed to minimise friction while ensuring optimum mobility. They are also designed so that they optimise muscle function around the implant site.

So all things considered, recovery and the ability to return to exercising after a total hip replacement is significantly better nowadays than it used to be when it was first introduced. Many patients are seeing high levels of joint functions restored following complete joint replacements. The desire of patients to return to sports is high, and with the right expectations and a structured approach to rehabilitation following the operation, many are able to do so.