Hip replacement

How Jay returned to the sidelines after a total hip replacement

Jay Wilson underwent a total hip replacement, performed by Brian T. Nickel, MD. Here is his story.

When hip pain prevented WISC-TV Sports Director Jay Wilson from covering the Badger football team from the sideline, he sought treatment from a UW Health orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive total hip replacement. Just six weeks after surgery, Jay was back on the news and enjoying his active lifestyle pain free.

When hip pain puts you on the injury report

A Wisconsin Rapids native and Madison resident, Jay has covered athletes from the sidelines for over 38 years as an anchor, reporter, and most recently, as sports director for WISC-TV. In addition to his physically demanding career, golfing, family time, lawn care and basketball keep him busy.

For the past 25 years, Jay and a group of friends have played basketball at the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center. In January 2018, Jay’s right hip began bothering him.

“I thought it was a groin injury,” he said. “I saw my primary doctor, who took x-rays that showed my cartilage was gone and my hip bone was grinding.”

Not quite ready for surgery, Jay exhausted all other measures before making an appointment with an UW Health orthopedic surgeon. Despite attempts to control his pain with physical therapy, oral anti-inflammatories and a steroid injection, Jay said, “I could feel my hip was out of joint because it clicked and moved. If I sat for any length of time it took a good 20-25 seconds to get going again.”

Choosing an expert

Knowing UW Health’s reputation for innovation and patient care, Jay scheduled his surgery for December 2018. But his increasing pain and decreasing mobility sent him to East Madison Hospital two months early to meet hip and knee surgeon Brian T. Nickel. Jay chose Dr. Nickel because of his extensive experience with minimally invasive robotically assisted total hip replacement.

Dr. Nickel said, “Mr. Wilson’s experience is a textbook example of the algorithm for treating osteoarthritis. Despite our best efforts to treat him nonoperatively with physical therapy, oral anti-inflammatories and injections, his joint destruction was too great to overcome without surgery. “His joint pain profoundly impacted his lifestyle, personally and in the workplace, and his ability to sleep, making the decision to move forward with surgery much easier.”

After meeting with Dr. Nickel, Jay decided that total hip replacement was the only option to regain his active lifestyle. He moved up his surgery to the end of October. “I couldn’t imagine waiting until December,” he said.

After surgery, Jay was transferred to a hospital bed where he settled in for an overnight stay.

Just hours after surgery, he tweeted, “Medical update. Surgery complete. New hip in place. Went great. Anesthesia starting to wear off but I can tell it’s fixed.” By evening, he had been up walking twice between episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” When Dr. Nickel visited him the next morning, he’d walked two flights of stairs and was ready to go home.

Road to recovery

After discharge, Jay returned home with a list of stretches and exercises. By Day 2, he stopped using a walker and transitioned to a cane for support. By Day 5, he was out and about in public with his cane. By Day 13, he walked into UW Health's Science Dr Medical Center to meet with his physical therapist, Jordan Miller, without any assistance.

“Jay’s made incredible progress,” said Miller. “Each PT session focuses on Jay’s rehab progress and return to optimal function. We want to get Jay, and every patient, back to their normal routines without pushing too far too fast.”

Jay summarized his first two weeks after surgery: “I knew I made the right decision right away. The pain I had for eight months is completely gone. Going up and down stairs is so much easier. My leg feels strong and stable so much better than it was.”

Overall impression of total hip replacement surgery

Jay met with Dr. Nickel for a follow up appointment two weeks after his procedure. Since the surgery, he’s sleeping better, exercising regularly and even started shooting free throws all without pain.

At his six-week follow up appointment, when asked what surprised him most about this journey, Jay said, “I didn’t think I’d feel this good, this fast. It’s remarkable.”

About the procedure

In the operating room, Dr. Nickel and a team of surgical experts replaced Jay’s hip. The diseased parts of his right hip joint were removed and replaced with artificial parts a titanium cup with a plastic liner to replace the hip socket, a ceramic ball to replace the femoral head, and a titanium femoral stem to connect the hip to the leg.

Dr. Nickel said, “A total hip replacement means we replace both the ball and the socket. With extreme precision, we remove the worn-out cartilage and bone and reconstruct the joint to restore the native anatomy.”

Jay’s CAT scan was used to construct a computerized 3D model and individualized surgical plan. During the procedure, a surgical robotic was calibrated and synced with the plan. The robotic arm helps the surgeon position the hip implant, confirming perfect placement.