Hip surgery doesn’t stop Clearwater tennis player

Ann Elias, 71, of Clearwater is back on the court playing tennis three months after hip replacement surgery. She credits physical activity with keeping her mentally and physically alert.

How often does a person bend over, or reach for something, or twist a little too quickly then feel a twinge, a pain? Normally it would be a strain, nothing to worry about.

For Ann Elias, 71, of Clearwater that little twinge she felt when she was playing tennis one day was more serious and it could have changed her life.

It happened in 2009.

“I was playing that day, and I went for a shot and felt a pain,” she said. “I thought it was just a minor injury, and I didn‘t think much of it.”

But the pain didn’t go away even as Elias continued to play. As time went on and the pain persisted, she decided it was time to have it checked.

“It was actually a couple of years before I had the courage to find out that I needed my hip replaced,” she said.

Playing tennis was something she has done just about every day since she and her husband moved to Florida from Lake Forest, Ill., because of a job opportunity.

“Ever since we moved to Florida 36 years ago, I have been playing tennis,” she said.

What could have ended her tennis playing, and therefore life as she had come to know it, was looming.

“I was nervous about it,” she said. “I went to Tampa and saw a surgeon and had scheduled the surgery for March 2011, but I changed my mind. I didn’t feel comfortable. Finally I saw Dr. Andrew Cooper at Morton Plant Hospital, and I felt better about it and had the surgery in September 2011.”

Her recovery was, by all accounts, remarkable.

“I recovered very fast,” she said. “I had the surgery on Monday and by Friday I went out to dinner. Three months later, I was back playing tennis.”

Elias’s quick recovery was due in no small part because of the physical condition she was in. Her surgeon was clear about that.

“Her recovery was definitely accelerated because of her condition,” Cooper said. “Her active lifestyle definitely allowed her to recover sooner.”

Cooper added that people with more physical limitations or disabilities would recover more slowly.

Also contributing to her recovery was the procedure Cooper used. The anterior hip replacement procedure is unique in Pinellas County and means that muscle was not cut during surgery, one less thing to heal and get back to normal.

Since her surgery, Elias has altered her approach to the game, a big deal for her, after playing competitive tennis for 30 years.

“I probably don’t run like I did before,” she said. “I played in two competitive tennis leagues at the Countryside Country Club, but now most of my friends have moved on so now I just play for fun, and it is better.”

As if playing tennis wasn’t enough, Elias has now taken up tai chi at the club.

“It is certainly different. It helps with balance,” she said. “I just find it kind of an interesting sideline, and it helps strength and balance. As you get older, you lose your balance, so this is pretty good for that. They only offer it once a week. I wish it were more.”

All that physical activity for this grandmother of two has opened the door to new and younger friends.

“A lot of people our age don’t work out anymore,” she said. “So a lot of the people I hang out with are younger. Very few are my age.”

Overall, Elias said physical activity is very important.

“It just makes you feel better,” she said. “It is extremely important, mentally and physically. When I wasn’t doing it, I was bored and things just didn’t feel right. I walk fast for about 30 minutes every day, and I find it keeps your brain going.”