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When you are young, fit and on a mission, your hip is the last thing on your mind. But years later many veterans find themselves with joint problems that require surgery. “Tactical athletes,” including military, firefighters and police, have a significantly higher rate of hip osteoarthritis, one of the conditions that can lead to a hip replacement.
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John Cooper, M.D., a New York orthopedic surgeon who has worked extensively with veterans, told AARP Veteran Report this is likely due to repeated exposure to high-impact activities in training and service.
Vilas Saldanha, M.D., a Texas orthopedic surgeon who served in the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan, said that arthritis, which can come from wear and tear, or trauma, might make a hip replacement necessary
Veterans most at risk “include those that served Airborne units, special operators, or anyone exposed to repetitive high-impact activities,” he told AARP Veteran Report. Special attention should be given to areas where “major trauma” was likely. “This goes for all joint surfaces, especially the weight-bearing joints, most notably, the hip and knee.”
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Here are some tips and tricks to make recovery from hip surgery much easier:
Don’t put it off
The time between the first symptoms and surgery might be 10 to 12 months longer for military personnel than civilians.
“Most of my patients tell me they wish they had chosen to have the procedure sooner, rather than suffering with pain,” Cooper said. “For those that eventually need a hip replacement in their other hip, they rarely wait as long to have surgery.” He also reassures patients that in the past, materials would wear out and need to be replaced in 15 to 20 years, but now implants last a lifetime for most patients.
Get stronger before the op
Physical therapy isn’t just for post-op weeks and months. Getting strong before your surgery can make for a quicker recovery. “Prior physical therapy, strong core, a motivated patient that wants to get back to activities of daily living, and personalized physical therapy programs aid significantly,” explained Saldanha,