Portrait of a Grateful Patient
Surgery helped nationally ranked tennis player Clayton Beckwith tackle advanced arthritis and return to the court again. Now the doubles specialist and avid golfer hopes that hard work and good fortune will help him regain his traditional level of success.
Beckwith, a retired criminal investigator for the state Board of Equalization, had an arthritic right hip resurfaced in December 2011 by UC Davis orthopaedic surgeon Gavin Pereira, who is fellowship-trained in adult reconstructive surgery and orthopaedic trauma.
Beckwith began hitting tennis balls six months after the procedure, and returned to competitive play two months later. Complete healing can take a year or more, and with improvement leveling off he’s now focused on rebuilding his fitness with a goal of playing in national-level contests again later this year.
“I’m happy to be playing and pretty much pain-free — although I’m still a little frustrated because right now it’s a struggle for me to compete at the same level with the other guys I used to compete with,” Beckwith says. “I am coming back from an injury, so I need to continue working on my fitness and who knows, I might get back there. I’m trying to play myself into shape.”
Tennis became a major focus for Beckwith in college, where he played No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles as well as No. 1 doubles on a team ranked 10th in the nation in Division II. He continued playing regularly and was one of the few Californians his age playing competitive open-level tennis. Beckwith’s long string of accomplishments included a top ranking in Northern California men’s 35s and 40s categories, along with a No. 4 ranking in the open division.
It was in his 40s that Beckwith first noticed a stinging, burning sensation in his hip that would come and go. Figuring it was part of being an athlete, he kept playing and winning, but as the years passed workups eventually revealed worsening arthritis.
With the pain interrupting his sleep and affecting his walking, in 2009 he underwent an arthroscopic “cleanout” procedure.
“If I wasn’t that interested in competitive tennis, that may have been all I needed,” he says. “But since that didn’t get me where I needed to be, I felt might as well try resurfacing.”
Beckwith read on a website that some tennis players had very good results with hip resurfacing and had returned to playing competitive tennis.
In a resurfacing, the head of the thighbone is trimmed and capped with a smooth metal covering, instead of being replaced altogether as in a traditional total hip replacement. The damaged bone and cartilage within the socket is also removed and replaced with a metal shell, as in a traditional replacement surgery.
Hip resurfacing is not a minimally invasive procedure, and recovery involved challenges such as a short hospital stay, difficulty sleeping and use of a walker and crutches.
“I had an impression that it was easier, but it was a little more difficult than I thought it would be, especially related to the arthroscopic surgery,” Beckwith says. “But I spent a lot of time reading national patient websites and a lot of people said the same thing. And what the doctor told me was pretty much right on.”
Posted December 2012