Teen has two hip surgeries, finds his way back to the field

Teen has two hip surgeries, finds his way back to the field
Thomas Walker underwent two surgeries to correct hip dysplasia after suffering agonizing pain for years. (Source: Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s not uncommon for teens to have growing pains. That sounds like an easy answer to Thomas Walker’s hip troubles.

“It felt like every week it got worse,” Walker said.

So Walker ignored the hip pain until he couldn’t.

“It started getting really bad," he said.

The hurt started in the left hip while Walker was in the 8th grade. Physical therapy worked for a while, but then the pain and discomfort moved to the right side. That’s when doctors decided to numb it just to see if he could run normally.

It worked.

“It was the first time I ever ran without pain,” the teen said. Shortly after receiving a numbing shot, Walker ran without feeling, but only for a few minutes, then he collapsed.

“Then we knew something was up,” Walker said. “Your hip shouldn’t just give out in an instant.”

That’s when doctors realized they were dealing with a much bigger issue than originally thought.

“Those muscles are working extra hard and they’re weak, tired, and painful," said Dr. John Faust with Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic and Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital Clinic.

Dr. Faust is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Faust says Walker has hip dysplasia.

“The ball of the hip joint forms and the cup of the hip joint forms. The cup is supposed to grow deeply over the top. If it doesn’t, then that’s dysplasia," he said.

Experts say hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis. To fix the immediate problem meant Walker had to have surgery on both hips to reposition the sockets. Dr. Faust says the surgery, periacetabular osteotomy, or PAO, was created in the 1980s in Switzerland by Dr. Reinhold Ganz.

Faust says for decades, doctors in the United States had to travel to Switzerland to learn surgery techniques from Dr. Ganz. Now, more doctors in the United States perform the surgery, so patients don’t have to travel out of the country. Faust says he was able to learn surgery techniques from three different doctors in the US. Dr. Faust says he performs around 20 PAO surgeries every year.

Dr. Faust says people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s can get arthritis from hip dysplasia. He says if those patients already have arthritis, there isn’t an option for PAO surgery.

Walker had surgery on both hips over a few years and now, he’s pretty much back to normal.

“It’s nerve-racking,” the teen said. “You’re just lining up with someone across from you and you know you just got out of hip surgery.”

Walker plays football for Live Oak High School. He’s on the line, so he needs to move his hips.

“At first, I was nervous,” he said. “I was always scared my hip was going to break or my hip was going to hurt.”

He also punts, another demanding movement that requires the hip.

“I know that my hips are strong enough to hold what I’m going to put them through,” Walker said.

Walker also runs track and field. He participates in the 100 meter dash, 4 x 100, 4 x 200, and he throws the discus. Recovery was a challenge for him.

“Because I had to learn how to do everything without putting any weight on my leg for the first six or so weeks," he said.

Dr. Faust says it takes about six weeks for patients to recover, but patients won’t be at 100% even after six months.

But Walker was so ready to hit the field. He was determined neither hip would hold him back.

Experts say mild dysplasia takes longer to show up, but people with a family history of hip dysplasia should have their children checked out. Other risk factors include first-born children and babies born during a breached pregnancy.

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