When Patty Lane’s orthopaedic surgeon told her that her time as an endurance athlete was over, she was so upset she didn’t even tell her family.
The stiffness that she had been experiencing in her hip was diagnosed as arthritis, and she felt like her body had let her down. She contemplated what the diagnosis would mean and if she could be happy standing on the sideline at races. When she talked to her son’s triathlon coach about her diagnosis and prognosis, he gave her valuable advice: “Go see a surgeon who’s an athlete.”
Her research led her to Dr. Stephen Duncan, an orthopaedic surgeon at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine who is also an avid cyclist. When Lane, who lives near Ashland, Ky., arrived for her appointment with Duncan, the options she received from him were “day and night” compared to what she’d heard originally.
“He told me he’d have me active again and gave me a variety of options I hadn’t been told about earlier,” Lane said.
Total hip arthroplasty
Duncan recommended a total hip arthroplasty, or THA, which involves removing the femoral head (the round top of the femur) and shaving off the cartilage inside the hip socket. A titanium shell is then placed into the socket, and a titanium stem is fitted inside the thigh bone. Finally, a plastic liner is placed inside the socket and a ceramic head is placed on the femoral component.
With a traditional THA, doctors discourage high-impact activities, as they increase the risk of fracturing and early wear. For Lane, Duncan used a newer technology called dual mobility, which uses a metal liner and two moving heads. This allows for less wear and tear, and decreases the risk of implant fracture. He also used a stem in her femur that has a special coating, which creates a natural connection between her femur bone and the implant. That helps prevent weakening of the bone in Lane’s femur around the stem, and also helps her avoid any pain in the femur that might be experienced with running.
Without Duncan, ‘I’d be done’
After six months of recovery, Lane was back to racing, winning her age group in a sprint-distance triathlon (half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike, 3.1-mile run). In the time since, Lane has competed in more than 20 races, including the New York City Marathon, an ultra-marathon and multiple triathlons of varying distances.
Lane noticed early on in her journey that there was little information available about what it was like to return to endurance sports after a hip replacement or a surgery like hers. The few articles she found provided conflicting information or gave advice she didn’t feel was right. She read that you’re not the same athlete after hip surgery and that it would negatively affect her times. She also read accounts of how surgery had helped relieve stiffness and pain and led to better race results.
If Lane had listened to her first surgeon, she said, “I’d be done.” Duncan’s support and second opinion meant she could continue doing what she loved – being active and staying healthy.
“Get a second opinion, and find a doctor who is familiar with the sports discipline you’re interested in,” she said.
Duncan’s advice echoed Lane’s.
“I would recommend second opinions if someone is told that they need to give up their passion,” he said. “Whether it be cycling, golf, running or hockey, patients should know that there are surgical options that surgeons can tailor to fit each patient’s needs.”
There are a lot of places to find information about surgeons who may be able to help, he said.
“Seminars from surgeon leaders can be helpful,” Duncan said. “Patients themselves often are great advocates through word-of-mouth, online postings and online searches to find surgeons who are comfortable caring for these endurance athletes and have success getting patients back to their desired level of competition.”
If Lane hadn’t followed the advice of her son’s coach, she wouldn’t have been able to travel to Cozumel, Mexico, to compete as a member of Team USA Triathlon. Thanks to hard work and an unwillingness to give up, she will have the opportunity to compete in a duathlon (run, bike, run) in Canada this September. She has no limits on when she’ll have to stop competing and is excited to continue to compete (and win) races all over the world.
“[Duncan] knew how important it was to me to be active,” she said. “He was encouraging and had no hesitation that I’d be able to run again.”
- Not ready for a total joint replacements? At UK HealthCare, our joint reconstruction specialists offer cartilage repair and replacement techniques that can improve your quality of life while delaying the need for partial or total replacement techniques. Learn more.
- If you have hip or knee pain and aren’t sure what steps to take next, check out Dr. Duncan’s blog post about surgical and non-surgical treatment options.