Hip, Hip (not) Hooray!

Playing a lot of tennis (me: six tournaments in six weeks) will take its toll on a senior tennis player’s body.  For some, it is the shoulder, or the elbow, or the knees, or the hamstring.  For me, it is now the HIP.

Running a Marathon

Many years ago, I had the thrill of going on a training run with Olympic Gold Medal Marathoner Frank Shorter.  After catching my breath from trying to keep up with his “slow jog” of 6½ minute miles, I asked what it takes to be a marathoner; and he said, “You have to have a perfectly balanced body.  Otherwise the pounding will find the weakness in your foot, your knee or your hip.”

With some strong pain in my hip joint a month ago, I went to my orthopedic surgeon’s office (Dr. Havig) to see what they could find.  My x-ray showed I was NOT bone on bone, but had arthritis on the ball joint.


They prescribed a double dose of Celebrex (one in the morning and one in the evening) to take down the inflammation and then one a day after that.  It didn’t seem to do the trick; so, I switched to a double dose of Aleve (two in the morning and two at night) PLUS I canceled all tennis for a week — a really big step for me.

But the first time back on the court this past Monday saw the pain return and my play (and my partner) suffer.  So, I now have a March 21st appointment (first open slot) with another orthopedist (Dr. Bertram) who gives the more complicated shot into the hip.

Anyone have similar experience and results??  Thanks

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26 thoughts on “Hip, Hip (not) Hooray!

  1. Are you also augmenting the pills with PT and or massage therapy? After numerous surgeries on neck, knee (TKR) and rotator cuff, I credit great PT and massage therapy for getting and keeping me on the tennis court! Best of luck George!

    Jim, yes (kinda), i do my daily stretching — which is what PT would be doing for me; and i have a powerful pump on my hot tub, which i place right on the joint every day. thanks, george

  2. In addition to the symptom treatment you are following from MD’s, ask your Doc for a prescription for physical therapy – after completing the recommended PT regimen find and use a good personal trainer to specifically work on the flexibility and strengthening that take the pressure off the hip joint. Training yourself as most of us do tends to have you working on your strengths and ignoring or inadequately addressing your physical weaknesses. Put the time and energy you happily put into tennis into an intelligently designed program that prepares you for future tennis. Be an adult and do a little delayed gratification on tennis play now to have more for the future. After your personal training has sunk in muscle memory and new routines, you can keep it up on your own and restart tennis. That is what you should do but the odds are that you will get rid of the discomfort for now and start playing tennis again as soon as you can. Why can’t we have desert first?

    Winder, and i thought i was being mature in taking one week off! Good advice. I went to a trainer about 12 years ago and have been following his routine virtually every day since; but this seems to be beyond that. thanks, george

  3. Hi George,
    Bummed out to hear about your hip issues. You are welcome to borrow one of my ElliptiGOs for pain-free rehab and to maintain your aerobic fitness. As you know, it is popular among runners and other athletes who are dealing with knee, hip and lower back issues because there is no pounding/impact on your joints. Feel better soon.


    Mike, funny thing … i just said to DeDe that strangely it feels better today than in past weeks; and the only thing i did differently is i rode her stationary recumbent bike yesterday for 40 minutes. Could that have actually helped?? thanks, george

  4. Yes, and I find use family practice physician, osteopath, chiropractor and physical therapist. It is important to verify that one’s PT routine is being done correctly.

    Another factor that plays a role in playing effectiveness is fatigue. Leg muscles do not recover within 2 hours (for a possible doubles match) and may not fully recover within 24 hours for the next singles match.

    Nick, so that would speak to my overdoing it in my tournament schedule. thanks, george

  5. after 3 hip replacements, left shoulder replacement after 2 shoulder clean ups, discectomy and neck fusion, spinal stenosis and claudication and 2 knee surgeries. I know one thing after all of the shots and therapy that can be had, the only relief from the arthritic joints is replacement. I have had great recoveries and surgeons but the result is always the same for me. Fast recovery and the pain is gone. If you are not sleeping then the time is now. At our age how many quality years of tennis do you have and why wait if you have these conditions?

    Bill, i think you are surely correct that replacement surgery is in my future; but i am hoping that the shot will at least give me relief for awhile. Btw, you surely win the Bionic Man award!! thanks, george

  6. George I like your title. Hip Hip (not) hooray
    We need a sense of humor to lighten the load
    Every super senior will eventually face such a challenge

    Clive, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, others will. thanks, george

  7. George, You might want to try asking your your doctor if it could be back related? I spent four years treating (sometimes painfully) what my big time orthopedic doctor swore was piriformis syndrome. To make a very long story short it turns out its a back issue. Seemed ridiculous to me as I had zero pain in my back however the new doctor said that a large percentage of back issues show themselves with pain in the hip area. Good luck.

    Greg, will do. thanks. george

  8. your Jag has a lot of miles on it. you have to drive it the same, everyday,
    locally just around town. when you try to take it on that long trip, that’s when it
    breaks down. george, try to keep your Jag out of the repair shop.
    ah, the 70’s……….
    my thoughts these days are, “just keep playing”

    Joe, but i can always just buy a new car! thanks, george

  9. Dr. Bertram is great, he did my double knee replacement 11 years ago. A few years back I went to him for hip pain I had had for months and he told me the hip was fine, just arthritis. He gave me a shot but it had little affect. I purchased a foam roller and started using it on my hip three times a day. After one week the pain was gone has never returned. Some people use a lacrosse ball. I agree with Winder Bill in finding the physical weakness..now I am dealing with lower back pain and trying rehab exercises from Dr. McKenzie.

    Doug, i do have a roller. what do you do, just roll over the area?? thanks, george

  10. Ice to reduce localized inflammation versus systemic or more invasive treatment is a simple, might help option. Rather than taking lots of ibuprofin etc or getting shots in the inflamed areas to reduce swelling, discomfort, try ice therapy (15 minutes on with a 30 minute off and repeat). I had shots in the lowest cervical disk to reduce incredibly painful swelling and it worked great each time but came back 10 months later. The pain management Doc had explained the shots right into the disk were to reduce inflammation. Instead of going back for another shot, I lay on an ice pack 5 or 6 times that day and 3 or 4 the next and pain gone. It has come back a few times and same regimen works. Worth a try – as long as you do not damage the skin by icing too long or not having a cloth between the ice pack and your skin, not much downside.

    Winder. worth a try! thanks, george

  11. Hi George – Congratulations on x-raying your pain issue. A year ago I began limping after several straight days of hard matches. Guessing a strained left groin, I expected gradual healing with less demanding tennis frequency. A year later I still limped (and dragged down my doubles partner Tommie George at Grand Meadows due to immobility.)

    Last week I finally had x-rays, and the orthopedist had an easy call: hip replacement (one spot bone on bone.) My plan is October surgery, then skipping the indoor hard court season here in Massachusetts. My hard-learned advice for lingering pain: don’t delay x-rays!

    Pete, good advice. thanks, george

  12. If you’re looking for a good PT guy, consider Chris Ippolito who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and works at FYZICAL near Carl’s Patio on US41. He knows every tiny muscle and helped me recover from back and other issues. He handles hips, shoulder, plantar fasciitis, etc. problems. Many of the Pelican Marsh tennis players are now using him.

    Bob, thanks for the tip. george

  13. George when using the roller lay on your side on top of the foam rolling back and forth where you feel the pain in the hip. Try to isolate right on the tender spot. Some therapist say it is best to roll across your hip at an angle..plenty of videos on Utube to see. I also use ice, like Winder, and agree that some of this is most likely related to the lower back discs.


  14. Dr Bertram did my left knee four years ago. While I still have some minor discomforts, my knee is totally functional and is never an issue on the courts. He’s does a lot of hip replacements and has an impressive client list for that surgery. I hope that you do not need to go there just yet, but the hip replacement is very effective and has a quick recovery.

    George, he seems to be The Man. thanks, george

  15. After 3 hip replacements and having scheduled a 4th, I found the book “Pain Free” by Peter Egoscue . He blames most of our physical ailments on improper structural alignment and his book (also his exercises are on the internet) gives you exercises/stretches to put you back into good alignment. I started doing his hip regimen and soon cancelled my operation – that was 2 years ago!!!!!!!!!
    Sean Sloane (75s)

    Sean, i will check it out! thanks, george

  16. Physical therapy. Local injections can help. Just had my second hip replaced last Tuesday and with an anterior approach the recovery is remarkable- much easier than knees or shoulders. I put off surgery for years- until I was truly crippled. Have replaced both hips in the last three months and am more than happy with the results. Too soon for tennis or running but I sure hope to be at Newks in October. Best advice I can give us to NOT be passive about it as I was for far too long. Arthritis is progressive and no one should wait for definitive treatment as long as so did.

    Doc, ACTION seems to be the common thread! thanks, george

  17. George, I have avoided hip injuries through 15 years of a violent Hockey League and many years of tennis by simply having regular Chiropractic. It keeps the body aligned so that problems like this don’t show up. I go to Dr. Dee. I sent Spike to her and he has really benefitted . Even after an injury it helps the body heal. Sometimes just going the medical route is just symptomatic unless you get to the cause. I also do yoga every morning and roll a hard ball under my “glutes” on both sides .

    Dave, I also believe in chiropractic, but this may now be beyond that cure. Thanks. George

  18. George, As you probably know, tennis is my second sport to endurance running. Having run over 30 marathons, including three in the last 9 months, I do have some hip issues. I have moderate osteoarthritis (OA), which is seen in about 85% of all men and women over the age of 65. The good news is that it is “moderate” and I have been able to continue to run, including Boston in April. Although there is no cure, you can survive very well with proper warm-up and cool down, strength training, and anti-inflammatories when it is acute. It is important to find out where your weaknesses are – gluts, hamstrings, and core are usually the culprits. Secondly, to work very hard on flexibility – hip flexors, I-T band, calves/achilles, and lumbar spine. Also, make sure you have no leg differences. When the inflammation is so acute that you can’t play tennis, cross training (Elliptical, pool, etc.) is important so that you do not lose muscle tone and can still maintain some aerobic fitness.
    I was told a year ago by one physician to never run again. Actually, the three main factors causing OA is 1) Overweight; 2) lack of exercise; and 3) you are a female. I know you have a kind heart but I am sure you do not fit into any of those categories.
    The other suggestions are great and although it may take longer then a week to get better, you can get better with the right program. Good luck.

    Larry, always good to hear your professional advice! I would LOVE to be able to run again sometime in my life! and, have started exercise biking on days i am taking off from tennis. thanks, george

  19. I had a total hip replacement (right-anterior procedure) on October 5th by Dr. David Whiddon davidwhiddonmd.com here in Tampa Bay. He is THE MAN! I was walking without a cane in a few days and on the court feeding balls four weeks later. Eight weeks after surgery I was hitting balls and drilling. I’m on the court a minimum of four hours daily instructing/coaching and I feel great, enjoying the best mobility I’ve had in years. My advice…if you require surgery, consult Dr. Whiddon who performs, exclusively, the anterior approach for total hip replacement. Don’t wait! Like many people who have undergone hip replacements have said “I wish I had done it sooner and not put up with the pain”.

    Alan, if i have it done: sounds like the anterior procedure is “the way to go” and i wish to have your speedy recovery time! thanks, george

  20. Hopefully, the sound advice offered by others will keep you away from the operating room. However, should surgery become necessary please research hip resurfacing vs. hip replacement. It’s a much better procedure for active people. The femoral head is scraped of the arthritis and a metal cap is placed over the head. This results in better biomechanical stability than having a section of the femur removed and a metal rod inserted in its place. Dr. Stephen Raterman of Tampa did mine. He brought the procedure to the U.S. from Europe and his office does surgery for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was walking (limping) 5 miles per day starting 10 days post-surgery and cleared for tennis match play 10 weeks post-surgery.

    Harry, that is something i have not heard of and will check it out! Believe it or not, my hip pain started back in the days when we played tennis in Connecticut 20+ years ago. You live in Tampa full time? george

  21. Ride a bicycle. Great for hips and knees and it allows you to maintain aerobic capacity while recovering. Also, impact free. I like a hill program with intermittent hard and easy intervals.

    Bill, sound advice and i will be doing it! thanks — and great to hear your ankle is healed up. george

  22. My hip pain also started only when playing tennis. Notwithstanding use of many remedies outlined above, it progressed to other activities. It took about five years to get to the point that it required surgery. Several of our former Ct. buddies have also required hip surgery. Is it your left hip that bothers you? The non-dominant side hip has been the culprit for every hip surgery tennis player I have talked with. I surmise it may have something to do with serve related motion/stress. I’m retired and live at the Plantation Bay Golf and Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fl. I traveled across the state in order to have Dr. Raterman do the hip resurfacing. It was well worth it!

    Harry, mine is the right hip; so does not hurt to serve or hit forehands… just backhands and movement. thanks, george

  23. George- I’ve had two replacements….the first one 26 years ago, and it’s still fine.
    The only things you can do to overcome the loss of synovial fluid and cartilage (and the resulting pain) is to keep exercising the joint and use painkillers (Advil seems to work the best for hips.)
    A replacement is in your future…the key thing is to time it so that you miss the least amount of the tennis that you really want to play…..late spring or early summer might be ideal for you. Good luck.

    John, thanks. Did your surgeon discuss “resurfacing” with you? George

  24. How interesting that there are SO MANY responding comments. That certainly evidences that there is surely a lot of pain and suffering among the senior tennis crowd, as one might expect!! I write only to note that Bob Litwin, who many know to be a nationally and internationally ranked senior tennis player and who publishes his own tennis blog, recently published a piece explaining that he has stayed away from national tournaments over the past few years in large part because of certain pain issues that he had been having. But he recently hooked up with a well qualified trainer at his gym, and the trainer has him now doing a bunch of specifically focused exercises that have largely removed the pain and that now allow him to go back to high level tournament tennis. The blog inspired me enough that I have a date with a trainer/ physical therapist coming up soon to help me get in better shape, lose weight, and start a regimen of specific exercises to help prevent injuries that I do not yet have and cure the ones that I already have. I may (probably still will) lose far more often than I win, but hopefully it will hurt a lot less when I do.

    Marty. I applaud your new commitment and look forward to seeing the results ar Newk’s in October! George

  25. As Clive said, I always love George’s sense of humor, and his weekly joke….we all need a lot of laughter to make it through the day. Good luck with your hip ailment. My Dad was a full time hip replacement surgeon in Atlanta for 40 years and he always advised to try everything else BEFORE resorting to surgery…but a lot has changed in medicine since he retired 15 years ago. Good luck! Scoot

    Scoot, i see the hip specialist in one week. thanks. george

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