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Can you return to sports after a total hip replacement?

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

After your surgery, you will do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your joints. Strong leg muscles will help you to return to those activities of daily living such as walking, climbing stairs, getting up from a chair and getting into and out of a vehicle. Usually, it takes about 3 months before your doctor will allow you to return to sports.

In addition to relieving pain, many people opt to have total joint replacement surgery to be able to return to sports. Some strenuous sports activities have the potential to damage artificial joints. All mechanical objects given enough stress and time will fail. The current metals, plastics, and ceramics are engineered and designed so well they usually do not break or even wear that much.

A joint replacement fails when it becomes loose or because the bone supporting the implant dissolves. These two reasons for failure are related. Wear of an artificial joint produces debris. The debris works its way to the interface between metal and bone causing the bone to dissolve and the implant subsequently loosens.

The greater forces applied to an artificial joint, the greater the potential to produce debris. Researchers have analyzed the forces generated across joints during various activities. For example, when you walk, the force across your hip joint is 1.2 times your weight. When you run, the force across your hip is 2.5 times your weight. When you sprint, the force is almost four times your weight. This is also an argument to maintain a reasonable weight after your surgery.

Low impact sports are generally the rule. You should be able to participate in bicycling, swimming, bowling, golf, non-aggressive doubles tennis, walking, and other similar activities. Football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball are not acceptable. You should consult your doctor before participating in any particular sport.

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Steve Rochell, MD

Dr. Rochell is an orthopedic surgeon with 28 years of experience. Prior to his medical career, he was an Illinois state champion gymnast, winning the still ring competition in both 1966 and 1967. He continued gymnastics through his college career at Stanford, becoming an All-American.

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