I am a competitive amateur marathoner who had completed 21 marathons prior to my injury. I began having muscle pain in my stomach and groin area and I thought it was just a muscle pull. The pain was manageable with naproxen but it progressively got worse so I went to my GP. He thought it may be a hernia so he in turn sent me to a surgeon. The surgeon promptly told me I did not have a hernia, but just a muscle strain and prescribed PT for 6 weeks. The pain got a little better so I just kept running and taking naproxen. After the pain got worse with more weekly mileage I returned to the surgeon who told me that I still did not have a hernia. The insurance company finally agreed to pay for an MRI that revealed I had torn cartilage in my right hip due to a natural impingement I was born with but did not manage to affect me until I was 48 years old.
I then saw an orthopedic surgeon out of a practice through a major Chicago hospital (many of whom are team doctors to local Chicago sports teams). He told me that he could repair the tear but that I could never run again and if I tried I would be facing full hip replacement surgery in a year or less. I was devastated by this news but thought it would be prudent to get a second opinion. I saw Dr. Shah and he told be that my MRI revealed that I did still have a significant amount of healthy cartilage left and that he felt I had a good chance of returning to running. I did some follow up homework on Dr. Shah with a friend of mine who is a radiologist and he said he had heard good things about him from peers and his patient success rates for my type of procedure were excellent so I scheduled my surgery with him.
Following the surgery Dr. Shah told me that it had been a successful hip scope and that I had 70% of my cartilage left. I patiently went through the slow process of physical therapy including 3 weeks on the passive motion machine for 4 hours a day, always wearing the hip brace, riding an upright bike 3 days after surgery, walking on crutches for 6 weeks, using an elliptical trainer after 7 weeks and not running until 3 months. I was able start running a few miles a day at first after 3 months and by 4 months post-op I was up to 40 miles per week. 6 months out from surgery in the summer I ran one of my fastest 10k races in several years!
Then into my fall marathon training my left hip had the same impingement and I tore the cartilage in that one. This time I did not have to go through unnecessary PT and was able to schedule the surgery immediately. I went through the exact same rehab protocol and was running again at full speed in 4 months! Because I caught the injury sooner Dr. Shah reported that I had 90% healthy cartilage in this hip. 7 months after surgery I was peaking at 70 miles per week in the early spring and went on to run my first marathon in over 2 years! I won my age group and had no pain whatsoever in either of my hips. I ran another marathon in the fall and also won my age group and have been running pain free since. Just last week I was in Arizona and had 3 separate long hikes in challenging locations like the Grand Canyon and was able to stay in step with my 20 year old daughter.
I know that there are doctors out there that are not as experienced in reattaching torn cartilage to people’s hips and it saddens me to think that there are a lot of runners and other athletes out there with unnecessary total hip replacements that will never have their full active lifestyle back. Obviously everyone’s conditions and injuries are different so their outcomes may be worse than mine but just make sure you ask your prospective physician not only how many of these types of procedures they do a month but, more importantly, what their patients outcomes are post-op. Then ask to speak to patients they have worked on who have been able to resume their sport to see how things went for them.
I cannot thank Dr. Shah enough for his expertise and counsel. He even recommended I started taking yoga to make my tight runner’s body more flexible and that in turn has helped me with some back pain I had been experiencing. I now have running back in my life and could not be happier. I am not running as fast as I did when I was 35 but I am still very competitive for my age and get to do what I love- running with my own hips and participating in any physical activity I desire.
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