66 year-old ‘Born-Again Athlete’ Completes Olympic Triathlon After Hip Arthroscopy

Richard Mertz, a 66-year-old resident of Evanston, has been a competitive athlete most of his life. He grew up in Wisconsin where he earned 10 varsity letters in high school. In his 30’s, he competed in the Chicago Triathlon. Later, his passion for competition renewed him, helping him to lose 90 pounds.

The only thing that ever slowed him down was nagging hip pain.

“Finally, in my 50’s, the increasing pain in my hip limited my mobility and I had to reduce my activities,” explains Mertz.

For six years, he lived with a labral tear in his hip — and the pain and limitations that came with it. He continued to pursue his passions, including road biking and scuba diving. But, eventually, he found it difficult to walk upstairs, carry scuba gear and remove his shoes after long bike rides.

“Although I could still participate in athletics, I became increasingly dependent on others,” Mertz says. “I didn’t like it at all.”

Mertz finally discussed his pain with friend Dr. Aaron Rosenberg, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR) joint replacement surgeon, who suggested he visit Dr. Shane Nho, a MOR hip arthroscopy specialist.

After a visit to and consultation with Dr. Nho, Mertz agreed to a regimen of physical therapy to try to repair the torn labrum. After a year of intense physical therapy, Mertz decided to undergo hip arthroscopy to repair the labrum. Hip arthroscopy is surgery that involves a half-inch incision in the hip to access the patient’s condition. Through this small incision, the surgeon inserts several portals (holes). Through one portal, he uses a tiny camera that transmits images to a television monitor, which guides him through the surgery. Through the other portals, he inserts thin instruments to perform the surgical procedure.

Typically performed on younger patients, Mertz’s health and physical condition at age 65 made him an excellent candidate for this procedure, considered by many to be an alternative to joint replacement.

After the arthroscopic labral surgery and a regimen of physical therapy, Mertz says, “I got my life back.” In fact, to get to his follow-up appointments with Dr. Nho, he rode his bike to the orthopedic building at Rush University Medical Center from his home in Evanston. Today, he walks five miles a day, trains for triathlons and continues to be “crazy active.”

Recently, he completed an Olympic triathlon in 3:34 and came in second in his age group. Although he admits there were only three in his group, he managed to complete a 1500 meter swim, 26 mile run and 10 kilometer bike ride.

Not one to let a little labral tear, arthroscopic surgery and recovery get in his way, Mertz’s next fitness goals include: running a 10 K in his new favorite city of Charleston, SC, learning to kite surf and hiking the Appalachian Trail.

His friends at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush don’t doubt he will accomplish all of these.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shane Nho or any another Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush physician, call 877-MD-BONES and/or visit www.rushortho.com.