Here Are Some Tips From A Two-Hip Skier.

Here’s Harriet. Two new knees, two new hips. When it comes to joint replacement, she knows what she is talking about. Credit: Courtesy of Alta

Your decision to replace any body part is a serious decision. Unlike a purchase from a retail store, you cannot return an implant!

But when your “original equipment” wears out, it’s time to have it replaced. Overall, we’re living longer, we’re living healthier, and we want to enjoy life—and ski.

As background, I have two artificial hips, two artificial knees, and I skied 78 days during this last winter before resorts closed because of the Covid virus. Artificial hips and knees work really well.

Here are some tips if you’re considering new hips.

Choose your surgeon carefully. Your future depends on it. Pay the cost of visits to several surgeons. Those visits will help you choose the right one for you.

1. Ask hip questions

Here’s the list of questions I asked each surgeon. I printed a sheet for each surgeon and I wrote down their answers so I’d remember what each one said. Unexpectedly, their answers were quite different. Print out these question and bring them with you to each visit.

  • Do I need a hip replacement?
  • How many hips do you replace a week?  A year?
  • Do you do the surgery or does someone else do it?
  • Do you do anterior or traditional cut? Why?
  • GPS guided? Robotic? Manual?
  • What kind of anesthesia? Why?
  •  What brand of implant do you use?
  • Metal or ceramic?
  • Glue? What kind? Why?
  • Bone density. What if my bones aren’t good when you get in there?
  • Do you resurface instead of replace? Why?
  • How long in hospital?
  • Will I need help when discharged?
  • What kind of PT do you recommend?
  • Can I ski?
  • Why should I choose you?

2. Do a visual check

Are the surgeon’s shoes clean and polished? How’s the hair? It’s a quick measure of how well the surgeon values him/herself. Neat and clean is a good sign. Think twice if s/he’s scruffy.

3. Find out if he’s/she’s athletic.

A surgeon who is physically active will understand your need to keep your active lifestyle and ski. If she or he’s a golfer, plays tennis, bikes, water skis or is active in some sport, she or he’ll identify with your need to keep your body in motion.

Personal note, funny story:

I met with a noted—but fat—surgeon, and I asked: “Do you ski?”

He replied, “No, but I own a house at the resort!” And he said I should give up skiing. I eliminated him from my pool of possible surgeons.

Get your X-rays on a disc

Be prepared. Take the disc of X-rays with you each time you visit a surgeon so they don’t have to take new X-rays. Surgeons might be in different networks and therefore not have access to your X-rays. Or, even if they’re in the same network, the computer system might be down that day.

Before surgery, plan ahead for PT

Visit some physical therapy studios, ask about their rehab for hip replacement, and decide where you want to work out. Do that homework before surgery.

Personal note: When I came home, I did the prescribed home exercises exactly as I should. But the exercises got easy and I stopped making progress.  I was glad I’d checked out PT studios and switched to one with electronic equipment, gym-type equipment and a heartier workout. Recovery came quickly.

After surgery

Expect to start moving right away. Expect to be walking the day after surgery, and expect to have in-hospital physical therapy.

Personal note: I was in the hospital for a couple days and I progressed quickly. The PT studio stairs became too easy, so the PT therapist took me to the hospital stairwell for greater challenge and practice. On a nice day, we went outside and walked around the entire building.

Shoes and boots

Your new metal hip might like more cushy shoes or a different pitch than you’re used to. Buy your shoes and boots at a store such as REI that lets you wear them, see if you like them, and bring them back if they’re not right.

Personal note: With two metal hips and two metal knees, my body is fussy about what’s on my feet. I now buy all my footwear at REI so I can test drive them for a while in real life, not just in the store.

Look forward to a new hip. Work hard at PT. And I’ll look for you on the slopes.

To read Harriet’s five-part series on knee replacement, click these links.

6 Comments

  1. You go , Harriet! All good points, but how can you find the real “good” doctors? Looking for a Dr in Ct for a ankle replacement. Anyone have suggestions?

  2. As a result of a serious injury while on pro patrol in 1968, I had a hip that deteriorated over the decades. Fortunately a friend was the orthopedic surgeon for a major league basketball team (and skier), and we had been monitoring it as things became more uncomfortable. Unfortunately he retired before I reached the point where I could no longer ski the blue runs at Deer Valley without real pain.
    So I called him and said something to the effect; since you are retired, I want the names of the two best hip surgeons in the region that are skiers. He gave me the names, and we concluded our call.
    Five minutes later I called him back and said: I asked the wrong question. “Which of those guys is the most passionate about his skiing?” He told me, I interviewed both of them and I went with the passionate skiing orthopedist.

    Ten years later I am skiing in total comfort, never giving my hip I thought while cruising the slopes.
    As Harriet said, choose wisely, do your PT and we all look forward to seeing you on the mountain.

  3. Avatar Bruce Lund says:

    I have had one hip replaced and, after research, I selected the anterior method of replacement. As I recall , it offered easier and faster recovery. I used the internet and advise from friends to select the surgeon candidates. I interviewed 5 surgeons close to my home, with three basic questions: Experience doing hip replacements, , do you do anterior hp replacements, and would you allow me to ski after the operation???? (One said NO!!) I also interviewed two former patients of the “favorites”. All went well and I was skiing the next season. Would do it again.

  4. Avatar Peter Whitson says:

    Had a TKR of the right knee in June and skied wonderfully all season! Actually improved my genu varum (bow leggedness) on that side making left turns easier to initiate and stronger!

  5. Avatar Eileen Fishkin says:

    Great story, great result. I have 2 new knees and 1 new hip. Yep, wore them out, but we are an arthritic family. Both of my daughters have had both knees replaced. So maybe I did not wear them out. Similar story: interviewed my surgeon, made sure he understood I ski and would continue to do so. Check. Easy rehab, so traded rehab steps for hospital steps. Outpatient rehab got too easy, so returned to the gym to work harder. Check. All surgeries in the spring – after ski season, and returned to ski in December. Must travel to all ski resorts, so only 25 days last year. Friends do not ski, so have to rely on ski clubs. At 86, I am happy!

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