Hip replacement (arthritis) for martial artists

dunc

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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 couldnt 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. Im 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 Id 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 whats going on
Once you know what youre 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 shouldnt 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 Ive been able to continue to develop my ground game. I couldnt 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 youre thoughtful about it

When its time, its time
Its possible to put off the operation for a long time if youre 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 Id 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 couldnt 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 dont 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 Ive 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 hed seen and was surprised that Id 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
Its day 2 after the operation and Im taking brief walks around the hospital on crutches. Theres 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

Ill share progress updates as I make my way down the road to recovery, hopefully this will help some people in the same situation
 

Buka

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Good stuff, dunc, thanks.
 

dvcochran

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@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.
 
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dunc

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First day back on the BJJ mats today (7 weeks post op) - Light drills for side control to mount, submissions etc
I immediately noticed how much more hip mobility I have already compared to pre-operation
A long way to go to get the full strength and mobility back but feels really good!
 

_Simon_

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First day back on the BJJ mats today (7 weeks post op) - Light drills for side control to mount, submissions etc
I immediately noticed how much more hip mobility I have already compared to pre-operation
A long way to go to get the full strength and mobility back but feels really good!

This is very heartwarming to hear @dunc , thank you for updating. Hoping many martial artists can find this as an encouragement, no matter what injury they face. Awesome!
 
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dunc

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Quick update to say I've been training with my artificial hip now for 8 months
I've been rolling full on 5 times a week at my BJJ academy and started teaching Buj again
My movement is much better than it was and whilst it's not 100% pain free yet (still some physio gains to be had) you'd hardily know I had an artificial hip other than I no longer do knee shield half guard or deep de la riva on one side

If anyone is putting off an operation then I'd say "go for it"
 

gpseymour

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Quick update to say I've been training with my artificial hip now for 8 months
I've been rolling full on 5 times a week at my BJJ academy and started teaching Buj again
My movement is much better than it was and whilst it's not 100% pain free yet (still some physio gains to be had) you'd hardily know I had an artificial hip other than I no longer do knee shield half guard or deep de la riva on one side

If anyone is putting off an operation then I'd say "go for it"
Great to hear the recovery is coming along so nicely!
 
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dunc

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Just adding that I have two adult kids who also train which is why Ive been able to train during the pandemic
 

Jeff Webb

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I'm glad I found this post. I've been teaching martial arts for 40 years, currently 6th Dan in Tang Soo Do but also 2nd Dan in Kenpo as well. I run my own school of about 60 students with many talents instructors who work for me. Last fall I thought I had a groin pull in my left leg. I nursed it while stretching, icing, etc. It wasn't getting better so I thought I may have a tear. After months of no kicking and hoping things would heal on their own they weren't. (It's hard for an instructor who was a pretty high kicker and always out infront leading line drills to no longer kick in front of class. (My students all understood I had an injury). Finally I went and got an X-ray. Nothing bad really showed up. I was then sent for an MRI. It shows some bone spurs, a tear in my hip labrum but also major calcification of the labrum as well. I received a cortisone shot June 1st, thinking this would get me through golf season (I'm also a pretty avid golfer) but unfortunately the cortisone shot did not help. I'm now scheduled for a hip replacement Sept 2, 2021. Everything I have heard about this procedure sounds fantastic. I'm eagerly looking forward to this and also hearing about other's experiences.
 

CB Jones

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My son is currently wanting to be an Orthopedic Dr or surgeon......maybe I can setup a Martial Talk discount....lol.

We joke with his instructor that he is gonna be the 1st under Jacob's knife since he is gonna have to have a knee replacement in the future.
 
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dunc

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I'm glad I found this post. I've been teaching martial arts for 40 years, currently 6th Dan in Tang Soo Do but also 2nd Dan in Kenpo as well. I run my own school of about 60 students with many talents instructors who work for me. Last fall I thought I had a groin pull in my left leg. I nursed it while stretching, icing, etc. It wasn't getting better so I thought I may have a tear. After months of no kicking and hoping things would heal on their own they weren't. (It's hard for an instructor who was a pretty high kicker and always out infront leading line drills to no longer kick in front of class. (My students all understood I had an injury). Finally I went and got an X-ray. Nothing bad really showed up. I was then sent for an MRI. It shows some bone spurs, a tear in my hip labrum but also major calcification of the labrum as well. I received a cortisone shot June 1st, thinking this would get me through golf season (I'm also a pretty avid golfer) but unfortunately the cortisone shot did not help. I'm now scheduled for a hip replacement Sept 2, 2021. Everything I have heard about this procedure sounds fantastic. I'm eagerly looking forward to this and also hearing about other's experiences.
Honestly I wish Id done it sooner
My surgeon advised me to use an exercise bike before and after the op - I got quite obsessed with it and it worked for me
Im also obsessed with getting my gait even when walking (iPhone tracks this for you) after many years of limping
 
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