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Returning to sports after hip replacement surgery

Recovering from hip replacement surgery is faster than ever, and for many people the big milestone is getting back to playing sports again. In this article, double board-certified consultant orthopaedic surgeon Professor Paul Lee offers his recommendations on how long to allow yourself to recover before returning to different sports, and how to get back into action safely.

running

Different sports put different kinds of strain on the body. It’s important to listen to your surgeon about how long to wait before getting back to your favourite sport and, more importantly, how to do it safely. Here are some general guidelines on some of the most common sports:

Golf

How long to wait: Refrain from all golf including the driving range for the first six weeks. This is because twisting the hip joint at this early stage could cause you pain and hinder recovery. Unless you have had the S.P.A.I.R.E. hip replacement, you need to discuss with your surgeon about the specific movements to avoid.

Getting back into it safely: Start off with putting, but leave the big irons for at least six months. There is a huge amount of rotational force at the hips with each drive, so keep your legs wide apart and with the foot slightly externally rotated to take the pressure off the hips.

Swimming

How long to wait: Avoid public swimming pools for the first six weeks to reduce the risk of infection in the wound.

Getting back into it: After six weeks you should be able to return to swimming without any problem. Swimming is an excellent all-round exercise that gets all of your muscles working, and the support of the water helps to avoid undue strain.

Walking/Hiking

How long to wait: You can take gentle walks immediately after surgery, but hiking on uneven ground isn’t recommended for at least three months until your muscles settle down and you get used to your new hip.

Getting back into it: Walking poles are recommended throughout your recovery to provide extra support.

Running

How long to wait: You can run as soon as you feel you have fully recovered. It will wear out your hip over time, but if running is the sport you enjoy it is an individual choice as to whether you continue to run.

Getting back into it: Keep your runs to under 10km and stop if you feel any discomfort. Running is a high-impact sport that puts a lot of pressure on the hips, so listen to your body and don’t overdo it.

Skiing

How long to wait: You can get back to skiing as soon as you feel able and can achieve at least 80% of a single leg squat. From the hip replacement point of view, it is relatively safe, as long as you don’t “wipe out”.

Getting back into it: Start gently and avoid icy conditions, minimising deep hip flexing movements. Try to avoid the moguls and steep declines. You can use an assisted device like Ski-mojo to reduce the overall stress on the body.

Tennis

How long to wait: You can resume playing tennis as soon as you feel you have fully recovered and are able to achieve at least 90% of a single-leg squat.

Getting back into it: Start gently, avoiding wet conditions. Be careful not to lunge for the ball if possible and keep your legs wide apart for added stability.

Football

How long to wait: You can play as soon as you feel you have fully recovered but be sensible – remember football is not a contact sport.

Getting back into it: Try to have regular breaks, keep intervals to around 10-15 minutes, and stop if you feel uncomfortable. Five-a-side indoor football may be a better option to start with as the environment is better controlled.

The important thing to remember is that everyone recovers differently, so listen to your body and don’t overdo it. If you have any questions we are here to help, just give us a call.

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