Why Athletes May Need Hip Replacements

The number of hip replacements performed in the U.S. have more than doubled in the past decade. In fact, a recent study shows the average number of hip replacements increased from 138,700 to 310,000 during this time. The highest reported age group, 45-54, has risen by 205 percent, and even some athletes in their 20s and 30s are choosing to get hip replacements.

Thanks to innovation in artificial joint design, new surgical techniques, and improved materials, hip replacements do not mean the end of one’s athletic career. In fact, new procedures, like hip resurfacing, are offering athletes promising odds of getting back out on the field. Now, there are more options than just the traditional Total Hip Replacement (THR) surgery. Let’s take a closer look at the recent skyrocket of hip replacements.

Why Athletes are Needing Hip Replacements

Hip replacement surgery and resurfacing are showing more promise than ever. However, the positive odds of returning to athletics is not the primary reason they are on the rise. More and more Athletes are needing hip surgery for the following reasons:

“Play Through the Pain” Mentality

Sports are more competitive than ever before. This has created a culture among athletes that encourages pushing their bodies to the limit. Because the hip joint supports the weight of the entire body, it often suffers excess wear and tear. Even when hip pain is present, athletes are taught to “tough it out” and keep playing through the pain. This can result in irreversible hip damage that may only be treated by replacing the hip joint.

Repetitive Impact

During high impact activities like running and jogging, the hip can experience an increased load of five times the runner’s body weight with every step. This impact only increases during activities such as figure skating, hurdling, jumping, or playing contact sports. Over time, the repetitive extra weight added to the hip can cause microtrauma to the joint. This will eventually result in the degeneration of the hip, making a hip replacement the best treatment option.

Undiagnosed Hip Damage

Along with being a sturdy joint, the hip is well-protected by a variety of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. While this network of support helps to protect the hip, it can also cause hip damage to go undiagnosed until it has progressed to severe levels. In fact, around 30 percent of hip injuries, including labral tears, trochanteric bursitis, muscle strains, and hip impingements go undiagnosed. When these conditions are not recognized until they are causing severe biomechanical imbalances in the hip, a hip replacement may be the only treatment option.

Longer Lifespans

People are living longer, healthier, and more active lives. This means athletes are enjoying longer careers. While the longer lifespan of humans and longer athletic careers are good things, it results in hips experiencing wear and tear over longer periods of time. This means that the likelihood of hip injury and the need for replacement is higher than it was in the past. 

Do You Need a Hip Replacement?

If you experience frequent hip pain and stiffness that affects your daily life or athletic performance, you may be a candidate for a hip replacement. However, more conservative treatments, including physical therapy, should be tried first. Due to the progressive nature of hip injuries, it is important to speak to an orthopedic surgeon at the first sign of injury.

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