Doctor, Can I Play Tennis after My Hip Replacement Surgery?

Most doctors agree that patients who have had a total hip replacement should avoid playing high-impact sports such as tennis. In this recent study, over half of the doctors told their patients not to play tennis. A third recommended only doubles tennis. Only 14% said it would be okay for their patients to play singles tennis after the surgery.

The danger of overdoing it after hip replacement surgery is that the new implant could loosen up, requiring another surgery to revise the hip joint. Also, there are concerns that the surfaces of the new joint might wear out sooner because of the heavy and repeated strains placed on it.

The authors polled members of the United States Tennis Association from three states. Fifty men and eight women who had total hip replacement filled out and returned the questionnaire. On average, these players returned to the court about seven months after their surgery. Even though they weren't as quick on their feet, they all reported better performance on the court than when they were feeling symptoms before surgery. By eight years after surgery, only 16% reported pain or stiffness on the court. The authors reported a 4% failure rate, meaning that three hips eventually had to be revised.

Readers must keep in mind, however, that this study compared highly competitive tennis players who were members of the United States Tennis Association. The authors acknowledge that this can lead to "selection bias," since patients who had stopped playing or who were unable to play after hip replacement surgery would likely have discontinued their membership. As a result, these patients would not have been part of the study.

Therefore, the conclusions of this study must be viewed cautiously and should not be used to say that anyone who has had a total hip replacement would be safe to play tennis, that their game would improve, and that they probably wouldn't end up needing a revision.

The authors insist that doctors not use this research as a basis to advise people on continuing to play tennis after having a total hip replacement. They also say that doctors should "advise caution in tennis activities." Further, the authors recommend that doctors who allow their patients to play tennis should follow these patients on a yearly basis to make sure the joint and surrounding bone are holding steady.

Reference: 

Michael A. Mont, MD, et al. Tennis after Total Hip Arthroplasty. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. January/February 2000. Vol. 27. No. 1. Pp. 60-64.

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