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Dr. Ronan Treacy

Des Tuck – Martial Artist, Bilateral 10/01 & 5/03, Mr. Ronan Treacy

It is no exaggeration to say that hip resurfacing has had such a profound effect on my life that for all intents and purposes it turned the clock back on my aging process. It has not only enabled me to arrest my physical degeneration resulting from osteoarthritis, but I have actually been able to improve my athletic performance.

I underwent bilateral hip resurfacing in 2001 (left) and 2003 (right) with Mr. Ronan Treacy in Birmingham, who installed two BHR devices. I’m told the first surgery took just over 30 minutes, start to finish. The second took a bit longer - 45 minutes - because Mr. Treacy was teaching.

Aside from relieving the constant pain I had experienced for decades, the most noticeable effect resurfacing had on my life involves my athletic pursuits.

Although I suffered hip pain beginning in the mid-1970's, I was nevertheless able to study karate, reaching the level of 5th degree black belt in 2001. However the test for that level, which I took in Tokyo under the auspices of the All Japan Karate-do Federation Goju Kai , was one of the most painful events I can remember. It felt like I had sandpaper in my left hip.

At that time, my right hip hadn’t bothered me at all; most likely the pain was masked by that in the left hip.

Tuck training in Japan Tuck cropped kick
Photo left: Tuck training in Japan;
Photo right:  Head-level roundhouse kick

Mr. Treacy examined me in February, 2001 and had advised me to take the test before the surgery, which I did. A couple of weeks before leaving for Tokyo, I had a cortisone injection into the left hip. Unfortunately the analgesic effect wore off several days prior to the test, but it did give me four or five days of prior training time without agonizing pain.

This test required me to perform three kata (form sequences) and two kumite (sparring) sessions with high-level karate practitioners also testing for similar levels. I suspect the adrenalin rush of full contact hand-to-hand combat and the fear of getting hit was enough to make me forget about the hip pain for a few minutes.

Luckily my strategy of hammering my opponent in the first few seconds of each match had the desired effect of creating enough fear in them to make them stay away from me.

By the time I flew to Birmingham for surgery four months later, I was ready for any surgery which had a 50-50 chance of ending the pain. As it turned out, my fondest hopes were exceeded.

After my October, 2001 resurfacing I was back doing my karate training lightly within 7 weeks after surgery, and with no restrictions after 10 weeks. In the meantime my right hip started to bother me, but the left one felt great. In 2002 I attended and taught at karate seminars in the UK, Austria and Slovakia. People who had seen me prior to the surgery couldn't believe my improvement after just one resurfacing.

I decided to take no pain killers this time, and had my right hip resurfaced by Mr. Treacy in May, 2003, about 18 months after the first. That’s when my clock really turned back.

In June, 2004, I celebrated my 50th birthday by going to Japan and undergoing karate training for 8 hours a day for 10 days. In July, 2005, I won two bronze medals at the USA National Karate Federation Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina, one in fighting and one in forms. In the forms competition, it was an open division, I was 51 and the next oldest competitor was 30.

Des Seienshin

Considering it was my first tournament experience in almost 20 years, and that I had suddenly experienced severe sciatica about six weeks earlier and needed acupuncture to reduce the pain to an acceptable level, I was delighted with my performance. But the most rigorous test was yet to come.

In July, 2007, I tested for and received my 6th degree black belt under the All-Japan Karate-do Goju Kai Federation in Osaka, Japan. This obviously took a lot of training especially immediately prior to the test. I was the first (and maybe the last) person in the world to ever test for this black belt level with the JKF Goju Kai with resurfaced hips. None of the 8 examiners and 5 moderators knew at the time of my “advantage.”

I should mention that I was only the 11th non-Japanese in the world to ever pass this test. The All-Japan Karate-do Federation and its four style branches are recognized by the Japan Government Department of Sport as Japan’s only official representative entity in world karate. The test for 6th degree black belt is recognized as the threshold leading to the 7th and 8th degree levels. As such, the test for 6th has the highest failure rate, with a level of scrutiny that is detail-oriented to an extent that most would consider ridiculously stringent.

Since being resurfaced bilaterally, I am able to kick more efficiently and with more speed and flexibility than I could at any time in my karate career. My hip movements, essential for the close-fighting style of karate I practice, are fluid and quick. Our basic fighting stance, a “cat” stance, requires one to essentially stand on one leg and move around smoothly, shifting weight onto the other leg but never being balanced 50-50 on both.

Below is a video of Des demonstrating his kicks at the Hippy Gathering in Fremont, on January 31, 2009

Since being resurfaced, I routinely spar with karateka in their teens, 20's and 30's and can hold my own with international level martial artists without difficulty. When doing forms, I can actually express myself artistically instead of moving to accommodate the pain.

I hope my story encourages those of you who want to make further progress in any aspect of your lives, especially in the sporting arena. I am able to perform better now than I could when in my 20’s because of my pain-free hips. In other words, hip resurfacing has actually helped me improve my athletic performance to international level even though I am now in my mid-50’s and was resurfaced at ages 47 and 49.

During July, 2008, I went to Japan for further training and drilled for 6 hours a day for 8 days. Afterwards, I felt about 20 years younger. I plan to repeat this regimen each year until 2012, when I will be allowed to test for 7th degree black belt. I can’t wait, but I guess I’ll have to.

Des Tuck
April 6, 2009

Update November 2009

"In July 2009, I returned to Japan for my annual karate training, and had a fabulous time once again. This time we did some pretty heavy sparring practice and my hip held up well throughout. Here's a picture of me doing a partner exercise with a highly skilled teenager and he didn't get the better of me. We also did waterfall training:"

Tuck training in Japan


Floyd Landis – 9/27/06, Ronan Treacy

Hip resurfacing shows promise for cyclists with bum hips.

Written by Emily Furia

On September 27, Floyd Landis underwent Birmingham hip resurfacing (BHR) surgery. The procedure was approved by the FDA in May, but has been performed for more than 10 years in the United Kingdom. David Chao, M.D., team doctor for the San Diego Chargers, and Ronan Treacy, a U.K. surgeon who co-developed the BHR technique, operated on Landis, who first injured his right hip in a 2003 training crash. Restricted blood flow to the head of his femur led to bone death and degeneration.

Floyd Landis
Floyd Landis

For younger, active people, resurfacing is often a better option than a total hip replacement, says Treacy. In a traditional replacement, the hip socket is filled with a plastic-lined cup, the head and neck of the femur are removed, and a metal shaft is inserted into the thighbone. "Some regard it as a partial amputation," Treacy says. He also points out that the typical hip-replacement candidate makes approximately 1 million cycles, or hip movements, per year. But pro cyclists such as Landis make about 30 million cycles yearly, Treacy estimates; they'd quickly wear out a metal-on-plastic joint.

During BHR, the surgeon shaves some bone off the pelvis, then inserts a polished high-carbide-chrome cup into the hip socket. Then the femoral head is smoothed and capped with metal. "In Floyd's case, this part was difficult," says Treacy--Landis's femoral head had deteriorated to the point that his right leg was nearly an inch shorter than his left. During the two-hour procedure, Treacy was able to correct the discrepancy. "Fortunately, I've done nearly 3,500 of these," he says.

So far, the operation appears to have been a success--Landis pedaled for 10 minutes on a stationary bike just six days after surgery, at about 100 watts. Later that week, he presented medals at the U.S. track cycling nationals in Los Angeles. Landis aims to race the '07 cycling season, but the outcome of his upcoming doping case could affect his plans.

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