Martial Arts & Osteoarthritis in the Hips

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Dunc, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. Dunc

    Dunc Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Hoping this will help martial artists suffering from arthritis and considering a hip replacement

    I'm 48 years old and have been studying traditional Japanese martial arts for over 30 years (teaching for 20) in the Bujinkan organisation. I've been training in BJJ for 9 years and have a brown belt in BJJ under Roger Gracie
    A combination of a slightly deformed hip bone and a lot of training resulted in the slow and inexorable onset of arthritis in my hip

    I couldn’t find much information online about the options or outcomes for martial artists suffering from arthritis so am sharing my personal experience and lessons learnt in the hope that it might help some folk. I’m not a doctor so, you know, bear that in mind as you read this

    Get scans / X-rays done early
    I had several incorrect diagnosis along the way. Maybe if I’d caught it earlier I could have held the arthritis at bay for longer &/or tried stem cell treatment (which is still early technology, but seems promising)

    Understand what’s going on
    Once you know what you’re dealing with you can manage it intelligently without having to reduce your activity levels. Arthritis is your body putting down new lumps of bone in response to your bones rubbing together without cartilage in between
    So if you put your arthritic joints into positions where the bones touch then your body puts even more bone down where it shouldn’t be and you speed up the process
    For example stretching to try and counter the mobility restrictions may actually make things worse

    Train smart
    I was training & sparring 5 times a week right up to my operation. I had lost the ability to do any level of stand up grappling other than teaching, but despite having grade 4 arthritis for the last 2 years I’ve been able to continue to develop my ground game. I couldn’t do any positions that required my knee to be near my chest or my hips to be open (so turtle & low mount were out), but the top game, half guard etc are all doable as long as you’re thoughtful about it

    When it’s time, it’s time
    It’s possible to put off the operation for a long time if you’re prepared to stop training and simply minimise your activity levels. However, I took the view that recovering from the operation would be much worse if I’d let my fitness slip and had to deal with the muscle atrophy from limping around for a year or two beforehand.
    For me the trigger was that I couldn’t show stand up technique correctly any more and I started feeling that I was not offering my BJJ training partners with a good roll

    Shop around for a surgeon
    Not all surgeons are created equal and most seem to focus on different kinds of patients. The good thing is that you can research surgeons online (in the UK their statistics are publicly available) and find some that deal with people in your situation. I focused on surgeons who focused on “young” patients (which for arthritis is the 45-55 age range), specialised in hips and had an interest in helping people get back to sports
    I met three different surgeons, all of whom offered different solutions to my situation. I settled on one who a) seemed to genuinely love what he did, b) had the best statistics out there and c) used ceramic on ceramic implant which most likely will last a lifetime (you don’t want to have to go through a 2nd install later in life)

    The operation
    Having an operation is quite a daunting experience, but to be honest it was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. My surgeon tells me that it was text book procedure and everything looks good so far
    He did say that the arthritis in my hip was one of the worst he’d seen and was surprised that I’d been able to stay active given how far progressed it was. I guess we martial artists get good at controlling our bodies and dealing with pain….

    The recovery
    It’s day 2 after the operation and I’m taking brief walks around the hospital on crutches. There’s a lot of bruising around the hip/buttocks which is the main source of pain. The pain killers and ice packs are doing their job and so far so good

    I’ll share progress updates as I make my way down the road to recovery, hopefully this will help some people in the same situation
    CMM, Smitfire and Nachi like this.
  2. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you get well soon and will be able to return to training!

    My boyfriend, who also does karate, like me, has been complaining about hip pain for years now. No way can I make him go see a doctor about it. I am nagging him from time to time, but he is determined to do so only after his surgery of a foot, so that he doesn't have too many things to deal with at once, I guess. Unfortunately that surgery was getting postponed a few times, though he's finally going next week. I am quite worried about his hips as from his complaints it sounds like it is getting worse, I'd say. He complains of both sharp and dull pain. I guess sharp during training, when he does something (like roundhouse kicks) and dull pain even a few days following that. He's only 39, though. I suppose there aren't that many diagnoses of pain in the hip, so I worry it could be arthritis or something... ¨

    Therefore I am happy for the summary you put here, thank you.
    Let us posted about your recovery!
  3. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Did you find this via the NHS, or was it private?

    Whichever funding stream you used, did you have to be referred first of all, and who guided you through the search for a surgeon?
  4. Dunc

    Dunc Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Sounds similar to my experience when it started for me
    It’s a slow progression so it’s easy to put it down to aches and pains, but I really wish I’d got a scan earlier. I could likely have delayed my operation by a few years if I had the right diagnosis early
    Nachi likes this.
  5. Dunc

    Dunc Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    It was private (on my company insurance), but I needed to get a GP referral first
    You then get to see a orthopaedic consultant who does the tests/scans etc and refers you to a surgeon. They can help you navigate the choice of surgeon, but I did a lot of research myself also
    Dead_pool likes this.
  6. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    I work in healthcare commissioning now, and it didn't sound like you were going the NHS route, iirc NHS wise, you still get a choices but not as wide of a choice, and the route you go through to get an operation is a bit longer, to make sure people who would be better off with less invasive procedures, get them.

    Is the aftercare / physio / post Op meds all sorted out by the insurance too?
  7. Dunc

    Dunc Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Physio is covered yes
    Dead_pool likes this.

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