Running Is Possible After Hip Resurfacing But…

If you like to run but you’ve worn your hip joint out and you need a hip replacement, your running days may not be over. According to the results of this study from France, running after hip resurfacing is possible. But if this describes you, before you put those running shoes on, let’s clarify a few things.

First of all, what is hip resurfacing? Hip resurfacing arthroplasty is a type of hip replacement that replaces the arthritic surface of the joint but removes far less bone than the traditional total hip replacement. Because the hip resurfacing removes less bone, it may be preferable for younger patients. It is an attractive option for those who want to stay active.

Common sense and logic tells us that repeated movements and pounding the pavement with a hip replacement (or hip resurfacing) may not be such a good idea. It is believed that the metal-polyethylene bearings of the implant will break down with increased pressure and load that comes with activity.

But is this assumption really true? What evidence do we have that running activity after hip resurfacing is a bad idea? The first study to look at this more closely has been published. Surgeons from the Department of Sports Medicine at the University of Lille in France studied 40 of their patients who were runners and who received a hip resurfacing procedure.

By measuring the amount of time spent running, level of impact, their weekly mileage, and return to sports competition, they offer us the first look into running activity after this procedure. Symptoms such as stiffness, pain, and weakness were also evaluated. Follow-up took place over the months to years after the procedure (a minimum of two years, up to 41 months).

The younger patients (50 years old and younger) were able to maintain their same level of running after surgery as before. Some runners were even able to run competitively once again. Older patients were more likely to report a decrease in their weekly mileage. Seven of the 40 patients also commented that they felt nervous or apprehensive during sports. A few patients had pain only during activity but not intense enough to need pain medications.

The authors of this study point out that newer implants are less likely to fracture or break with weight-bearing load. Hip resurfacing gives the hip higher wear resistance. More than ever before, these new implants make it possible for patients to resume low to medium level impact sports.

The results of this study suggest that high-impact activities are also possible. Of course, this was a short-to mid-term length study. Long-term results will tell the rest of the story. Patients will be better able to make decisions about the level of physical activity they want to pursue after hip resurfacing when they know what to expect over the entire life of the implant. For now, caution is advised when counseling patients regarding activity level, intensity, and level of impact.