How a 73-year-old pensioner travels 1,600 kilometers with three artificial joints

Enjoying life again thanks to surgery at the Hellersen Sports Clinic

Sport is Wolfram Fischer's elixir of life. Every day he feels an enormous urge to move and covers up to 50 kilometers a day - either on his bike or in his running shoes, the main thing being through the local forests in the Sauerland region. He covers 1,600 kilometers a month on his two wheels. The expression "spry pensioner" describes the 73-year-old very well. But there are two reasons that make Wolfram Fischer so "spry" in the first place. Daily exercise for over 35 years and three artificial joints.

Two hip prostheses and a new knee joint help him to continue to be as mobile as he used to be. "The artificial joints feel like my own," says Wolfram Fischer. He is very grateful to Dr. Joachim Hagenah, head physician of the Artificial Joint Replacement Center at the Hellersen Sports Clinic, and his team. Because without them, he might not be so active anymore.

It was 2015 when the pain in his knee became more and more severe. They impaired more and more his beloved sport. The solution: an artificial knee joint. After the operation by senior physician Bernd Irlenbusch at the Hellersen Sports Clinic, the leg can be moved perfectly again. The pain is gone and sports are fun again. However, a short time later, in January 2016, Wolfram Fischer developed problems with his right hip. Here, the pensioner already had a hip prosthesis that had been implanted in another clinic a few years earlier. This had caused a fatigue fracture below the prosthesis. A replacement operation was necessary. Since he had had such good experiences with his knee in Lüdenscheid, Wolfram Fischer decided to also have the prosthesis change performed at the Hellersen Sports Clinic. "I knew the problems and also the discussion about the cap prosthesis according to McMinn, which the patient had previously had. We exchanged it for a cementless standard prosthesis," says Dr. Joachim Hagenah.

After hospitalization at the Hellersen Sports Clinic and a few weeks of rehab, Wolfram Fischer was fit again. He allowed himself a short rest period, but then quickly got back on the saddle of his bicycle. He had missed sports! With the new hip prosthesis, sports worked well again. The 73-year-old concludes that there are no restrictions. Even participation in the P-Weg Marathon in his hometown of Plettenberg, was possible again in the same year.

Regular exercise with joint replacement recommended
"Gentle sports such as walking, swimming or cycling are naturally better after prosthesis surgery. Stressful sports such as jogging should only be practiced if the patient, like Mr. Fischer, was also active before the operation. In principle, extreme sporting activity is not recommended with an artificial joint. But it is considered much better than completely foregoing exercise. Studies have shown that regular exercise even prolongs the durability of the endoprosthesis," explains Dr. Joachim Hagenah.

And regular checkups at the Hellersen Sports Clinic show: Even after several years, no excessive wear and tear due to sport is visible in Wolfram Fischer's case. Everything is fine! "Running is like an outlet for me. That's why I also wanted to get back into training as soon as possible. The therapists in rehab literally had to slow me down," explains the 73-year-old. Now, sports are back on his agenda every day. 50 kilometers on the bike or on foot. Once a year, he even goes with friends to the low mountain range Kaiserstuhl to run and cycle.

That he went back to the Hellersen Sports Clinic in 2019, when his left hip also had to be replaced with an artificial joint, was clear to Wolfram Fischer. "You're a completely different person when the pain is gone. The quality of life comes back," he explains. And for him, this is inescapably linked to sport.

Facts about sports with an artificial joint - chief physician Dr. Joachim Hagenah reports

  • A study by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Endoprothetik (Working Group on Endoprosthetics) shows that those who put more strain on their hip increase the lifespan of their artificial joint. The study primarily refers to the hip, but is also applicable to other joints, such as the knee. The study group therefore recommends at least one hour of exercise per day.
  • When can I start doing sports again?
    Before resuming sports, the regeneration period is important. The recommendation is: at least for three months after the operation, preferably six months. In principle, it should be discussed with the attending physician as of when which activities are possible again. And strenuous sports should only be practiced after prosthesis surgery if the patient was active in them before the operation. While extreme sports with an endoprosthesis were not recommended ten years ago, the opinion has changed. It is still not recommended, but is considered much better than not doing sports at all. Thanks to the better quality of the wear parts, the loss rate is significantly lower - provided the patient does not fall.
  • Which sports are recommended?
    The best type of exercise is cycling. It strengthens the muscles and the knee and hip joints. At the same time, the load on the bones and joints is less because the saddle bears the weight. The prerequisite is that little force is applied. Therefore, low gears and a higher cadence are recommended. For mountainous regions such as the Sauerland, an e-bike is therefore also an option, or the exercise bike. And swimming is also highly recommended due to the reduced body weight. Also well suited are fast walking and walking, even better Nordic walking. Jogging, jumping sports like high jump and long jump as well as volleyball and tennis are less good. Whereas volleyball involves high impact stress due to jumping, playing tennis involves abrupt stopping. Nevertheless, it is better to do a strenuous sport that you enjoy than to do no sport at all.


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