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New Hip, New Attitude About Exercise

Many Patients Embrace Exercise Again After Hip Replacement
WebMD Health News

Dec. 14, 2005 -- Hip replacement gives many people a new lease on an active life, German researchers report.

Klaus Huch, MD, and colleagues studied 809 people who got a new knee or hip because of joint damage relating to osteoarthritis. Their findings:

  • More than half of the hip patients exercised five years after surgery (52%).
  • Just under a third of the knee patients exercised five years after surgery (32%).
  • Biking, hiking, and swimming were the patients' most popular activities.

The patients were all less than 76 years old. The study appears in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.

Back in the Game

"In general, total joint replacement allows a significant increase of sports activities at a five-year follow-up," Huch writes.

Huch works in the orthopaedic surgery department at Germany's University of Ulm. That's where the patients were treated.

Here's a snapshot of the patients before surgery:

  • Average age: about 63
  • More than three-quarters were overweight or obese
  • Most patients were women, especially in the knee group

Active Lives

The operations were done from 1995-1996. Before surgery -- and again five years later -- patients completed surveys about the sports they played and other types of exercise they practiced.

The surveys covered all sorts of activities including skiing, boxing, ballet, bowling, tennis, aerobics, and soccer. Basically, if the patients had ever exercised, the researchers wanted to know about it.

Nearly all had exercised at some point in their lives (97% of hip patients and 94% of knee patients).

However, few were still playing those sports right before surgery (36% of hip osteoarthritis patients; 42% of knee osteoarthritis patients).

Back From the Sidelines

Five years after surgery, more hip replacement patients were exercising than before their operations. The proportion of these patients exercising for more than two hours a week increased from 8%-14%.

Not so for the knee patients. More of them were inactive five years after surgery. The proportion of these patients exercising for more than two hours a week decreased 12% to 5%.

What's that about? Here are the patients' top reasons for ditching exercise five years after surgery:

  • Pain in the replaced joint
  • Pain elsewhere
  • Precaution to protect the replaced joint

Those reasons were all mentioned more frequently by knee patients. Younger patients and men were more common in the hip group. They were more likely to play sports five years after surgery, the researchers note.

The patients had been told by their doctors that after joint surgery, moderate exercise was probably fine to do but high-impact exercise was out.

Here's how Ulm and colleagues put it.

"At the moment we generally suggest moderate activity, but we advise against high-impact sports activities (with often uncontrolled and physically powerful joint movements -- for example, soccer, downhill skiing, tennis) after total joint replacement," they write.

Check in with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you've been inactive or had surgery.

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