As orthopaedic consultants, we routinely carry out total hip replacement surgery (also referred to as total hip arthroplasty) to treat severe osteoarthritis or serious hip fractures. For keen sportsmen and women, one of the first question we get asked is ‘how quickly can I get back to playing sport?’ Of course, there isn’t a single definitive answer to this question as a person’s recovery depends on many different factors including their age, overall health and adherence to a rehabilitation programme. It also depends largely on the type of sport they want to do.
European Hip Society study
However, a recent study among members of the European Hip Society (EHS) asked them to recommend how quickly a person who has had a total hip replacement could return to playing 47 different types of sport. The study, which was published in The Journal of Arthroplasty in November last year, is based on responses from 150 (roughly a third of) EHS members. Respondents were asked to respond to 47 individual endurance sports, saying whether they would allow a patient to return to that activity after 6 weeks, 6-12 weeks, 12 weeks to 6 months, and six months. They categorised their responses as “Allowed”, “Allowed when experienced”, “Not allowed” and “No Opinion”.
OK after 6 weeks
There were five activities that members said they would recommend participating in within six weeks of a total hip replacement. These were:
- Walking stairs
- Static cycling
- Aqua fitness
OK after 6-12 weeks
Six to 12 weeks after surgery, members said they would recommend to patients that they could start to take part in activities such as:
- Cycling on even ground
- Tai Chi
- Nordic walking
OK after 3-6 months
After three to six months, the number of sports that someone recovering from total hip replacement could participate in rose to 26. These included:
- Table tennis
- Fitness/weight lifting
OK after 6 months
After six months, EHS members said they would tell patients that it is fine to participate in 37 of the 47 activities listed in the survey including:
- Tennis – couples
- Jogging on the road
- Horse riding
However, some sports remain off limits for someone who has undergone total hip arthroplasty. These are martial arts, full contact sports, football, basketball and handball.
It is likely that we will be facing more and more questions of this sort from patients as the age of people coming forward for hip replacement surgery falls and the average life expectancy of patients increases. The EHS study points out that people are participating in sports up until a much greater age than they once did, particularly as there is such a cultural focus on staying fit and well into old age. Sport is not just good for our physical health but for our mental health too, helping to release feel-good hormones and increasing social interactions and a sense of personal achievement.
Most sports OK after six months…
The conclusion from this study is that, while some surgeons err on the side of caution when it comes to recommending a return to sport after surgery, an overwhelming number of EHS members agree that it is generally safe to resume most sports six months after hip replacement surgery, with the exception of certain high impact activities.
… but always listen to your surgeon
Of course, it is important to discuss this with your surgeon, who knows you best and the also knows what type of surgery you have undergone and whether there were any complications. He or she can advise on what is best in your particular circumstances.