How an Olympian’s Hip Replacement Keeps Her Active in Her 30s

Date: Jan 26, 2024

Hip replacement surgery is not just for older adults. Patients as young as in their 30s can recover quickly and go on to live more active lives. Recent improvements in surgery processes, equipment, anesthesia and implant devices make recovery quicker and simpler.

For some people, hip replacement surgery when they’re younger can offer relief no other treatment can offer. Take, for example, a 39-year-old former Olympian whose worsening hip pain brought her life to a halt. 

It started out in a seemingly harmless way. She noticed occasional tightness and an ache after rigorous training sessions as a teenager. The pain was easy to ignore and write off as a minor nuisance. But over the years, the pain persisted and became an inescapable ache. 

She couldn’t walk or stand for very long. This limitation kept her from enjoying her previously active lifestyle and made everyday activities very painful. Physical therapy didn’t help much. Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen barely touched the pain, and she got stomach ulcers from large doses of Advil. Prescription pain medicine helped, but she didn’t want to depend on it to get through the day.

Her current reality couldn’t compare to the active lifestyle she had once enjoyed. So she sought help at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center to find a new solution for her hip pain.

Anterior Hip Replacement Surgery Relieved Her Pain

The former Olympian spoke with the orthopaedic surgeons at Emory Healthcare to find the right treatment for her diagnosis and life goals. X-rays revealed hip dysplasia, and early-onset arthritis caused her to lose all the cartilage in her hip joint. Without cartilage to cushion the joint, any movement caused painful bone-on-bone rubbing.

To address the true cause of her pain, her orthopaedic surgeon performed a minimally invasive anterior hip replacement surgery. With this approach, the surgeon makes a smaller cut on the front of the hip to replace the joint.

Surgeons often choose this less-invasive, more advanced technique because it leads to quicker recovery time than surgeries from the side or back of the hip.

Quick Recovery, Lasting Results

Hip replacement surgery recovery doesn’t have to take months or even a stay in the hospital. Over 80% of patients go home the same day as their surgery.

The former Olympian’s recovery started immediately. She walked on crutches right after surgery. Then, about 10 days later, she needed only a cane for extra support. To rebuild her muscle strength, she followed an at-home exercise program recommended by her surgeon.

About two and a half weeks after surgery, she could walk on her own. And after her three-month check-up, her surgeon cleared her for an active lifestyle without restrictions. Her surgeon expects her to stay healthy and active; she shouldn’t need any more surgeries on her hip for the rest of her life.

Recent Advancements in Hip Replacement Surgery

Recent advancements in anesthesia, hip implants and surgical equipment make these amazing results possible. The orthopaedic surgeons at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center use develop advanced techniques and research new these treatments developments to help patients recover faster and experience fewer complications than they would with older techniques. 


Quick-acting spinal anesthesia has many benefits for hip surgery patients. It gives them pain-free surgery and a quick return to function so they can start to walk sooner. And because the anesthesia enters the body through the spine, it doesn’t cause nausea like traditional general anesthesia can. The medication also drops a patient’s blood pressure to a safe, low level, which reduces blood loss during hip surgery. 


Hip replacement joints are made to last. Since the late 1990s, manufacturers have created hip joint bearings from a very durable material. The wear on a 20-year-old implant is so low it can’t be seen on an X-ray. Surgeons believe these joints will continue to last throughout a patient’s lifetime. 

Replacement joints also blend in well with the body’s natural ecosystem. A highly porous metal coats the outside of the hip implants to help it mimic bone. The body recognizes this bone-like texture and creates a living bond with it, which can help the joint withstand stress for longer. 

Surgical Equipment

Bowling shoes wouldn’t work well for a football player—they’re just not the right equipment. And similarly, surgeons use equipment specifically designed for an anterior hip replacement. The operating table positions a patient’s hips at just the right angle. And smaller surgical instruments allow surgeons to perform a hip replacement without cutting a single muscle fiber. 

In addition, advanced imaging guides the surgeon as they place the implant in the best position. Fluoroscopy also gives surgeons continuous X-ray images, much like an X-ray movie. And when surgeons place implants with better alignment, patients have more stable joints that perform better over time. 

Even after surgery, patients won’t have to care for their incision or avoid showering. Instead, the surgery team closes the cut with stitches the body can absorb, and they seal it with a waterproof dressing to prevent infection. They usually remove the waterproof seal about two weeks after hip surgery.

How to Know if Hip Surgery Might Help You

Do you have persistent hip pain that has gotten worse? Your pain might be a sign to seek the expert opinion of an orthopaedic hip surgeon. They can take X-ray or MRI images to find the cause of your hip pain. 

Not everyone with hip pain needs hip surgery, and orthopaedic surgeons offer other specialized treatments to relieve hip pain.

If hip surgery is right for you, the surgeons at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center use the latest approaches to surgery and have helped thousands of people regain their active lives. They’ve performed over 5,000 anterior hip replacement surgeries for younger and older patients. 

To request an appointment, call 678-853-7615 or contact the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.  

Schedule your appointment today.

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