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A new hip, a chance to run again

By Staff | Jul 7, 2019

He might be relaxing now but it might not be too much longer before Tom Plocker can resume his running routine.

The 2018 cross country season marked the 31st season of coaching the sport at Blue Earth Area for Tom Plocker. It also was the first season of his coaching career he was not able to join the team in running during their practices.

A problem which had started 2-3 years earlier finally had reached the point where Plocker could no longer tolerate the pain associated with running.

“I was having pain in my hip, I tried to rehab through it, doing strength training and exercises, but it didn’t help,” Plocker says.

An X-ray taken late in the summer of 2018 revealed the source of the problem. Plocker had developed arthritis in his left hip.

“A cortisone shot I got around Labor Day didn’t help,” Plocker adds. “It was quite frustrating for me.”

The course of events meant Plocker remained on the sidelines while the girls and boys continued to train and run in meets. When the season was over, Plocker made plans to see what could be done to alleviate his pain.

“I saw a surgeon in December and he recommended a total hip replacement,” Plocker explains.

This is also the point where Plocker’s oldest son, Daniel, enters the picture.

“Daniel is a physical therapist and has worked with people who have had hip replacement surgery,” Plocker notes. “He recommended I have the surgery utilizing the anterior approach which is less invasive than the posterior approach and results in a shorter recovery period.”

In fact, the time needed for recovery may be 50 percent less using the anterior rather than the posterior approach as there is less damage to muscles with the anterior method. The surgery requires about a six-inch incision in the area of the front pocket.

So on June 10 of this year Plocker had hip replacement surgery in Mankato. It was performed by a Mayo surgeon.

“The surgery went fine but the first night was tough,” Plocker says.

But since his one-night stay in the hospital, things have gone much better.

“I basically have no pain, just stiffness in my quads,” Plocker comments.

One might think after a major surgery like hip replacement that a patient would have to spend a lot of time in physical therapy.

“That is another advantage of this type of surgery,” Plocker states. “I have no physical therapy appointments, just 6-8 exercises to do two times per day.”

Plocker has also begun riding an exercise bike and walking.

“I have to relearn to walk correctly,” he remarks. “I am hoping to get back to a normal gait pretty quickly.”

Now that he is on the road to recovery, Plocker, who ran cross country and track himself in high school, has a few modest goals to try and attain.

“I want to participate in the walk at Giant Days this year,” he says. “I was not able to participate in the run last year but I plan on walking the 5K briskly this year.”

Beyond learning to walk properly again, he also has a goal to run again, maybe by mid-August.

“But I am in no hurry to run; walking without pain feels good,” he comments.

Stepping back and looking at the situation, everything seems to be going well.

“I was afraid I would have to use a walker, and then our bedroom is upstairs but it has not been a problem to climb the stairs,” he says.

Plocker has also been very thankful for his wife Becky.

“It has been nice having her around to keep me out of trouble,” he says.

Plocker, who ran 15-20 miles per week before his hip problems started, realizes there are no guarantees he will get back to doing the things he used to do.

“It’s hard to say, but I know there are people who have had hip replacement surgery who have run marathons,” he comments.

Right now he will settle for walking and riding the exercise bike and keep working on his recovery.

“Truthfully, one of the best results of the surgery is I have no pain at night and can get some sleep,” he concludes.