Why hip surgery wouldn’t help extend Andy Murray’s tennis career

Andy Murray's injuries stem from the excess loads on his joints from a career as a professional tennis player.

Andy Murray’s accidents stem from the surplus masses on his joints from a profession as an expert tennis participant.


Tennis famous person and British primary Andy Murray has introduced his deliberate retirement from the game later this 12 months on account of extreme ache in his hip, the results of repeated accidents.

Whereas Murray and his colleagues have been coy in regards to the actual damage he’s been fighting, skilled athletes face two typical hip issues, says Martin Hägglund, who research physiotherapy at Linköping College in Sweden.

Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome causes irritation on the prime of the thigh bone the place it meets the pelvis, or the underside of the pelvis the place it rubs alongside the thigh bone. “This bone irritation may cause an impingement whenever you attempt to flex or bend the leg,” says Hagglund.


FAI could be exacerbated by placing extra masses on joints throughout teenage development spurts, as Murray, who has been enjoying tennis at a excessive stage since a younger age, is prone to have executed, says Ash James, a sports activities physiotherapist at Manchester Metropolitan College, UK.

Such impingements typically take the type of bony bumps the place joints meet. Surgical procedure can take away the bone mass that’s inflicting hassle. However enjoying on the highest stage of sport isn’t conducive to protecting hips in tip-top form, nor to sustaining cartilage. “It’s just like the brake linings of your automobile or your clutch plate. Should you rag it too onerous, it wears out earlier,” says Adam Hoad-Reddick, a hip and knee orthopaedic surgeon at BMI The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, UK. “Impingement surgical procedure is barely good if there isn’t an excessive amount of chondral harm.” Rehabilitation from it may also be troublesome.

Extreme osteoarthritis

Murray himself stated yesterday that present surgical interventions haven’t been ample, and that he’s debating having an extra operation – hip resurfacing. “For him to think about resurfacing, it’d counsel that he has fairly extreme osteoarthritis,” says Winston Kim, a advisor orthopaedic surgeon at Manchester Hip and Knee Clinic.

Resurfacing is a lighter-touch strategy than a complete hip alternative, the place each the highest of the thighbone and the socket into which it sits are changed with synthetic variations. As a substitute, in an try and worsen the damage on the bone on the prime of the thigh, the femur is smoothed down and lined with a metallic cap, whereas a layer of metallic is positioned throughout the pelvic socket during which it sits.

Fairly than bone rubbing towards bone, inflicting extreme ache, metallic rubs towards metallic – whereas a major quantity of the affected person’s authentic bones across the hip space stay intact. “The thought course of is about bone conserving,” says Kim. “However the extra you utilize it, the extra harm that’s executed.”

“If I had a affected person who got here in and had hip resurfacing, I wouldn’t say they may by no means play tennis once more,” says James. However Murray isn’t an novice enjoying each weekend. He’s one of many world’s greatest gamers, and a former primary, and unlikely to wish to return at lower than 100%. “You threat early loosening and early failure,” says Kim – “and there’s solely a sure variety of instances you’ll be able to revise the hip. Earlier than you already know it, you’re left with few choices.”

Slicing muscle tissues

The participant himself admitted that “the rationale for having an operation like that’s not to play skilled sport, it’s to have a greater high quality of life”. And as Hoad-Reddick says, hip resurfacing remains to be a serious surgical procedure.

“Due to the way in which the surgical procedure is finished, among the muscle tissues across the hip are minimize,” he says. Incisions minimize the quick exterior rotators, a gaggle of six small muscle tissues that rotate the femur throughout the hip joint. “Most individuals wouldn’t miss having these, however should you’re a high-level tennis participant, you’d lose a component of pelvic stability and steadiness.”

However for somebody with such important harm – and seemingly in such ache – as Murray, there are few different choices. Kim says there are some alternate options, though none is ideal.

Arthritic hips lack chondral cartilage, which doesn’t regenerate. Microfracture – the method of drilling right into a defect and hoping it bleeds and kinds scar cartilage – doesn’t create hyaline cartilage: the high-collagen protein that holds our physique collectively. Some researchers are attempting to regenerate hyaline cartilage utilizing stem cell therapy, though it’s nonetheless in laboratory testing. “Proper now, as soon as a hip has turn into considerably degenerate, there’s no actual therapy apart from alternative,” says Hoad-Reddick.

That comes with its personal issues and dangers. Murray is 31 years previous – six years youthful than Roger Federer. “It’s an possibility for individuals his age,” says Hoad-Reddick. “The issue is that the youthful you’re when you might have a major hip alternative, not solely do you might have longer to dwell, so it must last more, however it lasts much less lengthy as a result of [as a 31-year-old] you’re extra lively [than a 70-year-old].”

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