Can Dancers Bounce Back from Hip Surgery?

My orthopedist says I need hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum from doing an upside-down split in a contemporary piece. He says I'll most likely be able to dance again, but I'm worried. My best friend had the same surgery and wasn't able to perform ballet afterwards. How risky is this operation? I'm only 28!

—Katie, New York, NY

All surgeries carry some risk. However, your youth and contemporary focus make returning to a professional career more likely, according to Dr. Douglas Padgett, a hip specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. In his research with colleagues, he found that younger dancers (whose average age was 30 in this study) all returned to their careers after hip arthroscopy, while those who didn't were closer to 40 years old. Styles that did not require an extreme range of motion also provided an advantage: 79 percent of dancers in musical theater and 73 percent in modern dance achieved success versus 60 percent in ballet. Professionals without degenerative arthritis, bone impingements or shallow hip sockets (aka hip dysplasia) also had favorable outcomes.

You and your doctor should take these factors into consideration, because it's possible to postpone surgery and get by with physical therapy as long as the pain is tolerable. The risk in waiting is that you may end up with an arthritic joint and need a hip replacement later.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at

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Hong Kong Researcher/dancer Huang Lei performing in "Convergence"Courtesy Hong Kong Dance Company

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