Thanks to the Arctic conditions that the UK has experienced recently, more of us have had a flavour for what it’s like trying to get around on unstable, slippery surfaces. While most of us wrap and warm and wait for warmer conditions to return, there are others who love the wintery conditions and love the challenge brought by winter activities. While this is fine for the more able-bodied amongst us, are winter sports every practical if you’ve undergone joint surgery?
Years ago, hip replacement surgery used to be an operation that only older patients were recommended for. This was because older people were more likely to need replacement joints from the natural wear and tear on joints during the ageing process. Nowadays, with more people choosing high impact sports, there is an increase in the number of younger patients undergoing hip replacement surgery and with this comes an increase in the number who wish to return to sports such as skiing.
Medical data looking at those who have returned to winter sports versus a control group
A report published recently by US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health looked at the results of a two-cohort study who had undergone total hip replacements:
- The groups were designed to have identical characteristics in terms of age, weight, height, gender and type of implant
- Each group contained 50 individuals
- Following surgery, one group regularly participated in challenging winter sports, such as alpine skiing and/or cross-country skiing
- The other group didn’t engage in any winter sports
Results from these two cohorts are interesting, and somewhat surprising. The report concludes that the results “do not provide any evidence that controlled alpine and/ or cross-country skiing has a negative effect on the acetabular or femoral component of hip replacements. The results of the biomechanical studies indicate, however, that it is advantageous to avoid short-radius turns on steep slopes or moguls.”
Orthopaedic surgeons such as Mr Simon Bridle recommend proceeding with caution if you are keen to participate in winter sports once you have undergone a total hip replacement. Although hip replacements are getting better and better, and the prognosis for recovering well and leading an active life afterwards is very good, it should not be underestimated how important it is to treat your new joint with care.
An article recently by Vail Health reiterated this point, citing the progressive improvement in this type of operation and the expectations of patients that they will be able to enjoy sports again once they have had surgery: “More precise placement of implants, increased durability and functionality of parts and a less invasive approach have all helped to advance this surgical process. Completing a three-phase rehab program after surgery with a physical therapist can give you the best chance of returning to your previous activity level.”
For keen skiers who are skilled in their pursuit and know their limitations, a phased return to the sport with due care and attention to your new boundaries can certainly be possible.
There is no denying the risks though – skiing is a dangerous sport and can result in injury for even the healthiest of individuals. If you’ve undergone a hip replacement and are thinking of trying out skiing for the first time then err on the side of caution – there are many other pursuits that would put you at lower risk of damaging your newly repaired joint.