My Personal Experience With Hip Damage – Ant Pruitt
I Went as Hard as I Could
Physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle are truly important factors in day-to-day life. What’s more important? Listening to your body. As a former athlete, my body and mind was trained to go hard and push as much as you can, even when your body feels the limits are met. Three years ago, this train of thought failed me.
As a young man in his early thirties, I used to pride myself on my physical condition. In high school I was a three sport standout that parlayed athletics into a college scholarship. Not having much of a social life meant I concentrated heavily on studies and getting better at my athletic crafts. From having my own high hurdles at my mother’s home for extra practice, to extra agility drills and weight room workouts when I wasn’t doing anything else. My body would get pushed to the absolute edge of my physical limits, but I would take one more breath and push one last time to finish a rep. That was all I knew growing up and continued that fitness attitude as I aged.
As I previously mentioned, three years ago my typical exercising mentality hurt me. I attended yoga for the first time during a lunch hour at work and it was such a pleasing high. I looked forward to my evening weight room session after the class. The endorphins flowed all afternoon long. The gym workout scheduled was for lower body and bicep work. Since I hate doing squats, I always started with that horrible exercise. On goes the 135lb warm up set to get this ball rolling, then something scary happened.
I went down for my first rep at 135 and was unable to stand back up. Neither my quads or hamstrings felt burned out or hurt, but I couldn’t physically push myself out of the position. I had to drop the weights. Baffled and scared, I stretched more and tried just standing and squatting with no weight at all. That was doable, but still felt odd. My typical athlete mind says, “go get it done and push through it.” Back to my 135 pounds and unfortunately, the problem persisted. I could not squat 135 pounds.
I finished my workout without doing other squat-like motions and went on about my business. The next day was running day for me. I’m not your perfect long distance runner, but two-mile runs felt adequate to me. As I completed my run, I noticed the “sound” of my gait. It didn’t sound the same. I didn’t know what to think of it or even if I should mention it to someone. It didn’t hurt to run, but I knew when my left foot struck the pavement with each stride, it had a different sound than my right foot. I should have listened to my body, but I didn’t.
The summer progressed for another month or so and more oddities began to happen. The weird sounding run continued, squats were still out of the question, and then I began to have prostate problems. Seriously? Prostate issues? At that time I was 32 years-old. Prostate issues were far from my realm of comprehension.
After failed attempts at swollen prostate treatments, I was finally sent to a physical therapist for “pelvic floor muscle” training. Weeks of PT lead to absolutely nothing. The therapist asked me to perform a specific movement for her. I sat on the edge of the table with my legs hanging off. She asked me to try to squeeze my legs together as she resisted with her hands between my knees. I couldn’t do it. It was your basic adduction movement. This lead to x-rays on my pelvis and later an MRI.
My MRI showed two things. First, I suffered a cartilage tear on my femoral head. Second, I suffered from Femoral Acetabular Impingement. This is also known as FAI.
What does this all mean?
Based on the surgeon’s analysis, I suffered a cartilage tear many years ago, but never noticed it. Based on the position and path of the tear, he attributed the tear to my days of running the 110m high hurdles in high school. Over time, the tear got worse as I continued to exercise at the intense rate I was used to. This tear later affected my hip labrum and began to tear it. This labral tear was what led to the prostate inflammation and weaker hip muscles. Finally, my natural anatomy caused problems. The socket my femoral head set in was impinged and basically “pinched” down onto my femur and tissue surrounding it. This was not good. To illustrate how serious it was, I saw my surgeon on a Friday afternoon to examine the MRI, and was under knife on the following Monday.
That weekend, while on bed-rest prior to surgery, I had time to think. I remember feeling as if I had pulled a groin muscle a few times, but what did I do? Heat in the morning, exercise, then ice at night – I just kept going. That went on quite a few times, but I didn’t consider it serious. I just assumed it was “normal workout bumps and bruises.” The day I couldn’t do my warm up squats, I didn’t do anything about it. I just stopped doing squats and carried on with working out. When my foot steps began to sound different in my run, what did I do? I continued to run. All of these items were signs of a problem. I didn’t listen.
My surgery removed my scar tissue and labrum, micro-fractured my femoral head to create a faux cartilage, micro-fractured my hip socket (acetabular) to create a faux labrum/cartilage layer, and shaved down my femoral head to better fit in my socket. This led to 8 weeks of bed-rest recovery. Never in my life did I think lying in my bed was so difficult.
The obvious question is, why not replace the hip? I’m in my mid thirties and shouldn’t yet have a joint replaced that’s slated to last for 20 years at best case. I recently decided to bite the bullet and have my hip replaced, but I learned that the replacement would still limit my mobility and not allow for the exercise regimen I am used to. Currently, I suffer from chronic arthritis because of my surgery and I’m unable to walk normally. Nor can I run, squat, do certain yoga poses, or even land from jumping. Nor can I interact with my three young sons in their athletics. I just have to yell and coach them as best I can. That’s a true bummer. Since I don’t have cartilage in my hip, I experience a bone-on-bone sensation with every movement. Therefore, my physical fitness is limited even more. Since I am limited, I’ve adjusted by doing more exercises with machines versus free weights, as well as more yoga. This allows me to maintain a descent weight, body type, and better state of mind.
I am waiting until the end of 2012 to have my hip replacement. My fingers are crossed because there is current technology in testing that will allow me to get back into successfully lifting hard and playing hard with more sustainable materials. If this tech isn’t approved by the government, I will succumb to the current technology and hang up my dreams of running again. I’m mentally prepared for either outcome.
Sure, being in great physical condition is important, but you have to listen to your body when it speaks. We have to be tuned in to hear what’s hurting and not allow our ego to overdo it. I hope I’ve provided adequate information on how one should adjust to the hand dealt to them physically as well as mentally. If you’re curious about hip anatomy and surgery, YouTube has tons of credible videos. We should be more informed about our hips. When the tire on our car goes flat, it’s a pretty easy and inexpensive fix. When your car’s shocks and struts go bad, it’s more serious. This is how we should look at our hips.