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Dancer's Hip Page
 
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If you are a dancer who has already had THR surgery, please
click here!
 
As the surgery drew nearer I became increasingly concerned that I would undertake this drastic, irreversible procedure and be no better off than before. I sought reassurance from the active post-THR people I knew. I went so far as to corner Esperanza Galan, a New York City Opera Ballet dancer (3 years post-op) who attends my health club, and had her actually demonstrate the ballet barre that she was able to do.
 
I am also grateful for all the help from dancer Nora Brown, the dance enthusiast, Carolyn Law and yoga practitioner extraordinaire, Pauline van Betten.
 
This photograph of Pauline, all by itself, gave me courage to go through with the operation.

Pauline
Pauline is in the center of the photo below, flanked by admiring friends, both of whom have also had THR. Pauline's story and others can be found on this site.

What improvement could I expect as a dancer?
Below is some of the correspondence that encouraged me to proceed with the surgery.
(Note: I later learned from my surgeon, Douglas Padgett, MD, that the range of movement you can do really depends on the incisional approach and surgical decisions. For example, since my incision is more lateral than Pauline's, I can turn out my leg to the back. It is critically important that each dancer consult with the operating surgeon to get personalized range of motion instructions. I will write more about this later.)
 
1. From Pauline van Betten:
What precautions do you observe 2 years later?
Honestly, I never really think about following precautions. With very specific exercises, in lunges to the back and developpé to the back I keep my foot straight forward. Also, bringing your knee to your chest, don't pull it across midline and keep the knee rolled outward. If I do the plow, I don't cross over midline.
 
How well I can expect to be ultimately?
I feel as good as ever. Certain muscles in my hip feel basically like an old sports injury that may at times require special attention.
 
So, if you don't mind my asking, how much movement can you actually do?
I bike, hike, rock climb, dance for hours…
 
I don't expect to jump since that will wear out the joint, and I don't expect to do competitive level ballroom dancing again, but...
A repetitive jumping activity wouldn't be good. You can still jump up and down for joy and run to catch a plane. I can't imagine you wouldn't be able to do ballroom dancing following these few specific modifications.
 
Do you do yoga or stretch?
I'm one of her most flexible students.
 
Are there restrictions on how far you can stretch your leg, e.g. can you pull your knee towards your chest?
Yes, don't bring operated leg across midline and keep the knee rolled outward.
 
Can you do a deep lunge?
Yes, keep operated leg toe pointed straight forward.
 
Can you forward bend so that your head approaches your knee?
Yes, keep legs turned out.
 
Can you ever bend backward?
Yes, avoid hyper extending at the hips with your legs turned out.
 
About ballet: Can you take a ballet barre? Yes. Do the adagio? Yes Developpé in all directions? Yes. To the back I keep the foot pointed forward i.e., not turned out. Cambré?? Do a grand port de bras? This is a little tricky. When you go forward and bring the head towards the knee the legs should be turned out. However, when you hyperextend backwards at the hip, the legs should be pointed forward. Passé? Yes, yes, yes. In passé to the back keep the foot pointed forward, not turned out.
 
And if you can do any of these movements, when were you able to do it?
After 6 weeks? Very limited flexibility
After six months? I exercised almost every day and by six months my operated leg was as strong and almost as flexible as the other leg
After a year? Loving life!
 
I plan to be very diligent at my rehab and get some kind of body work (acupuncture, Reiki, etc) almost daily in the beginning. What did you do?
I almost worked almost solely on my pelvis in the beginning. The book The Egoscue Method has good sacrum exercises. I don't know that you need to buy the book, it's basically pelvic tilts while lying on the floor, rolling down through the spine
 
How functional can I really be?
You should be fully functional.
 
She added:
Best wishes with your upcoming surgery. I had my surgery June 18th two years ago with Dr Swanson. It was the best thing I've ever done!
 
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2. Carolyn Law added the following proviso:
Ultimately, if you chose to, you can do almost everything you did before, with somewhat less turnout, extension, flexibility and strength. You will have muscle fatigue faster in that leg, so you need be intelligent about pacing--skip a few repetitions. You also need to be careful about not overtaxing the hip (such as by many repetitions of passes) thereby making your back sore…
 
I take class about 4 times a week. Every day would be too much. Swimming, cycling, walking are all fine.
 
You must observe the hip precautions for 3 months, so none of this movement is possible then, except swimming. I started back into class right after this, doing a poor imitation of the barre at first. The first 3 months it does not look much like ballet or feel much like your body. You are very tight. Port de bras front and passé are tough. It takes about a year to be most of the way back and about two years to be fully recovered to wherever you are going to be.
 
My advice is not to do too much especially during the first three months. Pacing is very critical; otherwise you will be in pain and have other problems like lower back pain. To be honest, it some ways it helps not to do much and just let the body heal itself.

You will be MUCH better off. That I can guarantee. I have no regrets whatsoever.
 
3. Finally, my physical therapist, Chris Bratton, sent me the following advise after reading this page:
The only thing I would say is: go to your Dancer's Hip page and re-read their advice to you: DON'T TRY TO DO TOO MUCH OR GO TOO FAST IN THE FIRST 3 MONTHS. This is where you can let the yin energy into your life in a real and balanced way. You must let your hip catch up with your mind and your will on its own schedule!
I add her advice because I need to have it reiterated again and again!
 
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Why are dancers so secretive about THR?
I did an exhaustive search on the web to see what other dancers had worn out their hips the way I had and I was shocked to find so few. Dr. Padgett, my orthopedic surgeon who sees many ballet dancers, explained that the shape of my pelvis with shallow hip sockets was just the right anatomical structure for success in ballet technique, i.e., able to get high leg extensions. However, the very same structure puts undue force on the joint and makes it more vulnerable to wear. (Read more about shallow hip sockets here.) He himself has operated on some famous New York City Ballet dancers whose identities, for reasons of patient confidentiality, cannot be revealed. I am surprised by this reticence. I had hoped to find comfort in the knowledge that my fate was a common and shared one. I think that it may be the illusion of perfection that clings to the ballerina that is to blame for this cover-up. I hope in the future to contact some of these dancers and get permission to use their names as an inspiration to others.
 
Dancers with THR who have spoken publicly about their surgery:
Suzanne Farrell: -- This online interview includes references to her surgery.
She also describes her THR in her autobiography Holding On To The Air, pp.278-289.
(Make it a point to see her move beautifully post-op in the film Suzanne Farrell, Elusive Muse)
Edward Villela (Director, Miami Ballet) describes his THR in his autobiography Prodigal Son, pp 254-271.
Liza Minnelli
Judith Jamison (Ailvin Ailey Dance Co. director, choreographer)
Arthur Mitchell (Dance Theatre of Harlem, founder and director)
Veronica Tennant (Canadian Ballerina)
Dame Margaret Scott (Australian Ballet School, founder)
For many more, please see the THR stories found here.
 
Since I posted this site on the Internet, I have learned of four legendary male dancers who had THR:
Edward Caton (danced with Pavlova), Vladmir Dokoudovsky (Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), William Dollar(ABT) and Arthur Johnson.
 
People have privately told me the names of other dancers who now have total hip replacements. This group includes former dancers with the NYCB, ABT, Martha Graham and Paul Taylor Companies. I don't feel at liberty to post these names until I get permission.
 
Here are some THR Athletes:
Phil Jackson (Los Angeles Lakers coach) 2007
Evel Knievel (daredevil stuntman)
Bo Jackson (baseball player)
Jack Nicklaus (golf pro)
Neil Lomax (former NFL quarterback)
Roddy Piper (WCW wrestler)
Coach Krzyzewski (Head Coach of Duke University's Men's Basketball team)
Doug Collins (NBA star and coach)
George Karl (Milwaukee Bucks coach)
Mike Ditka (New Orleans Saints coach)
All those listed above are from this web site.
 
Hulk Hogan World Wrestling Star (7/04)
Pat Day (3/05) age 51 Highest grossing jockey in history had hip surgery to repair torn cartilage and clean up bone spurs (performed by Dr. Marc Philippon at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic).
Jake "The Snake" Roberts (04/05) age 49, pro wrestler. Roberts popularized the DDT, which became one of the most-copied maneuvers in wrestling history.
 
Other THR famous people:
Regis Philbin (12/09)
Little Richard (12/09)
US Sen. Elizabeth Dole (12/12/06)
Mick Mars - Motley Crue guitarist (10/06/04) age 53
Paul Stanley - KISS guitarist/vocalist (10/12/04)
Michael Reagan - the former president's son (06/23/04) age 59
Ray Charles (12/03/03)
Rick James - Funk Singer (in 1998)
Katherine Hepburn
Eddie Van Halen
Pavarotti
Elizabeth Taylor
Pope John Paul II
Former President Bush
Former first lady Barbara Bush
 
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