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Can I play football after hip replacement surgery?

Q) As a 66-year old, I've been playing non-competitive indoor and outdoor football at my university once a week (occasionally twice a week) for decades with colleagues and their sons. I was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in my hip around 1992 after I'd finished playing local league football, and was told I'd need a new hip within 10 years. But since suffering virtually no pain, only stiffness, for a few days after football, I've not had the operation. My question is: is there any case of a person receiving a new hip and resuming football thereafter? I presume orthopaedic surgeons would be aghast at the thought, given football is a contact sport with sudden movements and changes of direction (it's not golf or bowls, after all). But maybe I’m wrong? 
Gerry, Canterbury (Summer 2014)

A) If you are a regular reader of this column you will know that I am a strong advocate of exercise. I have a friend who, despite osteoarthritis, exercises every day to his limit. He can’t run 30 miles over the hills any more but he can at least still get out. I do support your continued efforts and while it would not be my chosen sport it is obviously the right one for you. My advice would be to see to a sympathetic doctor or physiotherapist who can give you a measured opinion on your hip. There is no point having the operation just for the sake of it. As for playing with a new hip – well, you are right in your presumption but I can tell you that patients do things with their new joints that would shock their surgeons. However, you don’t want to end up dislocating it, or needing a revision operation too soon, so I would advise against this form of exercise if you do go down that route.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Summer 2014 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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