Hip replacement (arthritis) for martial artists

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by dunc, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. dunc

    dunc Blue Belt

    Mar 31, 2006
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    Hoping this will help martial artists suffering from arthritis and considering a hip replacement

    I'm 48 years old and have been studying traditional Japanese martial arts for over 30 years (teaching for 20) in the Bujinkan organisation. I've been training in BJJ for 9 years and have a brown belt in BJJ under Roger Gracie
    A combination of a slightly deformed hip bone and a lot of training resulted in the slow and inexorable onset of arthritis in my hip

    I couldn’t find much information online about the options or outcomes for martial artists suffering from arthritis so am sharing my personal experience and lessons learnt in the hope that it might help some folk. I’m not a doctor so, you know, bear that in mind as you read this

    Get scans / X-rays done early
    I had several incorrect diagnosis along the way. Maybe if I’d caught it earlier I could have held the arthritis at bay for longer &/or tried stem cell treatment (which is still early technology, but seems promising)
    I think I should have pushed my GP harder to get some scans done rather than going through the trial and error diagnosis approach over several years

    Understand what’s going on
    Once you know what you’re dealing with you can manage it intelligently without having to reduce your activity levels. Arthritis is your body putting down new lumps of bone in response to your bones rubbing together without cartilage in between
    So if you put your arthritic joints into positions where the bones touch then your body puts even more bone down where it shouldn’t be and you speed up the process
    For example stretching to try and counter the mobility restrictions may actually make things worse

    Train smart
    I was training & sparring 5 times a week right up to my operation. I had lost the ability to do any level of stand up grappling other than teaching, but despite having grade 4 arthritis for the last 2 years I’ve been able to continue to develop my ground game. I couldn’t do any positions that required my knee to be near my chest or my hips to be open (so turtle & low mount were out), but the top game, half guard etc are all doable as long as you’re thoughtful about it

    When it’s time, it’s time
    It’s possible to put off the operation for a long time if you’re prepared to stop training and simply minimise your activity levels. However, I took the view that recovering from the operation would be much worse if I’d let my fitness slip and had to deal with the muscle atrophy from limping around for a year or two beforehand.
    For me the trigger was that I couldn’t show stand up technique correctly any more (& was letting down my students as a result) and I started feeling that I was not offering my BJJ training partners with a good roll

    Shop around for a surgeon
    Not all surgeons are created equal and most seem to focus on different kinds of patients. The good thing is that you can research surgeons online (in the UK their statistics are publicly available) and find some that deal with people in your situation. I focused on surgeons who focused on “young” patients (which for arthritis is the 45-55 age range), specialised in hips and had an interest in helping people get back to sports
    I met three different surgeons, all of whom offered different solutions to my situation. I settled on one who a) seemed to genuinely love what he did, b) had the best statistics out there and c) used ceramic on ceramic implant which most likely will last a lifetime (you don’t want to have to go through a 2nd install later in life)
    Note for those of us in the UK: I am lucky in that I have medical insurance which probably gives more choice, but you can certainly ask for second opinions etc in the NHS

    The operation
    Having an operation is quite a daunting experience, but to be honest it was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. My surgeon tells me that it was text book procedure and everything looks good so far
    He did say that the arthritis in my hip was one of the worst he’d seen and was surprised that I’d been able to stay active given how far progressed it was. I guess we martial artists get good at controlling our bodies and dealing with pain….

    The recovery
    It’s day 2 after the operation and I’m taking brief walks around the hospital on crutches. There’s a lot of bruising around the hip/buttocks which is the main source of pain. The pain killers and ice packs are doing their job and so far so good

    I’ll share progress updates as I make my way down the road to recovery, hopefully this will help some people in the same situation
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  2. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    Jun 27, 2011
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    Good stuff, dunc, thanks.
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  3. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

    Nov 7, 2017
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    Southeast U.S.
    @dunc, that is good information, thank you.
    I can confirm much of what you are saying. In regards to the surgeon, I strongly suggest finding a sports Ortho as long as they you can confirm/explain your current and future activity level. As a rule their moniker of bone cutter is accurate and the first treatment they will go to. But a good doctor will offer alternatives. I will also add that most of the time finding good alternatives is on the patient since, and I am being real, medicine is in the business of making money (big money) so that is a prime motivator for them and will often exclude alternative therapies that may cut them out of the loop.
    I had to have two Ortho's in the OR on two occasions. And I cannot express how different they were. One wanted to take my leg off. The other wanted to work on it. But they worked together well and thankfully I still have my leg. Took a good while and several surgeries with borrowed and added parts but the leg does pretty good.
    As for arthritis and all the 'itis' brothers, they seriously suck rocks.123
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