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Hip Replacement Gets Tennis Player Back Into the Game

Posted on February 3, 2016 in Orthopedics

He discovered tennis in its golden years, back when Ilie Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis and Bjorn Borg ruled the men’s courts. But almost four decades later, Kevin Simpson’s game was suffering.

“For the longest time I thought that I must have a groin pull because every time I would go out and play tennis it would hurt,” he said. “I went a whole year with it, and then during the second year I thought, ‘I need to have this checked. Something’s not right.’”

Indeed, something was NOT right. A chiropractor’s x-ray showed his right hip was bone-on-bone, and Dr. Paul Yau, an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center confirmed it.

“Kevin had end stage, bone-on-bone arthritis, a significant limp, pain when he stood and was particularly in pain getting up from a chair, in and out of bed, and in and out of his car,” said Dr. Yau. “His hip was also very stiff.  He could not cross his legs, and even had problems tying the laces on his shoes. He wanted to be active again. Play tennis. He wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet. Life was too short to sit it out.”

That is exactly why Simpson sought out Dr. Yau in the first place. Knowing other tennis friends who had undergone traditional hip replacement surgery with its lengthy recovery period, Simpson had heard there was a better way, a method that Dr. Yau uses for almost every hip replacement.

Called “Direct Anterior Hip Replacement,” it’s a procedure in which the surgeon goes through the front (anterior) portion of the hip instead of the side or the back. This allows the surgeon to push aside important muscles and tendons rather than cutting through them to position a new hip joint implant.

“My patients who have had one hip done the traditional approach and the other done by me report the latter is approximately 60-80 percent easier,” said Dr. Yau. “By 2-3 weeks into the recovery, they are already doing what took them 2-3 months after the traditional approach.  Some even say because this approach never cut any muscles or tendons they can do things they never have been able to do with the hip done by another surgeon even 2-3 years after the previous surgery.”

“The more I looked into this anterior approach, the more I decided that’s the way I wanted to go,” said Simpson.

After hearing about Dr. Yau’s experience with the surgery, he made an appointment and was quickly impressed by the affable surgeon. “He stayed there and answered every question I had,” said Simpson. “He gave me all the time I needed. One of the nurses told me that he would stay with you all day if you needed him too. I told him what my goals were – I’ve been a runner all my life and wanted to get back to running and I want to get back on the tennis court. And he said, ‘I don’t see any problem with that.’”

On Sept. 28, 2015, two days before Simpson’s 59th birthday, he was being prepped for his surgery at FSRMC. “Right before the surgery, Dr. Yau came in and I told him, ‘I want to be the ‘Six Million Dollar Man.’ He said, ‘Well, how about a Million Dollar man?’ He had such a wonderful personality.”

A short time later, Simpson emerged from the recovery room a new man with a new hip and “feeling great.” That same day Dr. Yau sent him home to begin his recovery.

“The next day, the pain medicine was wearing off and I could feel some soreness and tightness there but nothing major,” said Simpson, who was off his crutches by his second follow-up appointment.

By Thanksgiving, Simpson was back on the tennis court. “The guy that was beating me like a drum when my hip was messed up, it wasn’t even close. I destroyed him in all three sets,” Simpson said with a laugh.

When he was told he needed a hip replacement, Simpson says, “I was devastated. I thought, ‘My life’s over. I’ll never be able to do anything, activity-wise. I’ll never be the same.’ But that wasn’t the case. I love Dr. Yau to death. I highly recommend him. He was so nice! It was like I had known him for years he’s so easy to talk to. I think I made a wise choice.”