Annmaria Mazzini dealt with hip pain during much of her 12-year run with the Paul
Taylor Dance Company, and it grew especially
intense in her last two years. She was told by a
specialist that she would eventually need a hip
replacement, but she was able to keep dancing.
She waited until leaving the Taylor company
in 2011 to have one hip replaced, followed by
the other in 2016.
But, it turns out, a hip replacement no
longer spells an automatic end to a dance
career. While the surgery remains a last resort,
new technologies work better and last longer,
allowing dancers to continue performing for
several years after getting a replacement.
Mazzini, for example, has continued to
WHO NEEDS ONE?
dance, making her own work, collaborating
with others, and teaching and staging Taylor
rep in the U.S. and France. She performed a
duet with Taylor dancer Michael Trusnovec
just three months after her second hip replace-
ment, having rehearsed for four months prior
on a deteriorating hip. “It was
really a gift to have that dance to
do right before and after the sur-
gery, because I had something to
compare,” she says. “There were
parts of the duet where my whole
body used to tense up, and now to be
able to do them so easily is just euphoric.”
Though most dancers will never need a hip
replacement, the surgery is common among
dancers. It’s sometimes even necessary for
dancers as young as their late 30s or 40s.
Those who end up getting a hip replace-
ment typically start off with some kind of
abnormality of the joint, notes Dr. Douglas
Padgett, Mazzini’s surgeon at Hospital for
Special Surgery in New York City, who esti-
mates that he’s performed
hip replacements on more
than 100 dancers.
“Very often the hip
socket is somewhat shallow,
which can lead to excessive
load and wear on the hip
joint, especially in the extreme ranges of motion that
dancers use,” says Padgett.
That can damage the labrum,
a ring of cartilage that sur-
rounds the outside of the
hip socket. Next, cartilage
on the head of the femur
bone starts to deteriorate,
leading to arthritis. “Once
cartilage on the head of the
femur bone is gone, there
are no established treatments
other than joint replacement,”
A total hip replacement involves
replacing two surfaces: the head of
the femur, and the hip socket itself. Origi-
nally, these implants were made with a type of
plastic called polyethylene, which degraded
over time, lasting only about 12 to 15 years.
As a result, hip replacements were generally
only considered an option for older patients.
The new gold standard is a metal or
ceramic head and a socket lined with a newer,
more durable type of polyethylene. “Modern
implants probably last 30 or more years. It
moves the operation to a younger age group,”
says Dr. Roy Davidovitch, a hip surgeon at
New York University Langone Medical Cen-
ter who has also treated numerous dancers.
“No longer should patients feel they have to
This recent advancement potentially allows
wait until they’re really suffering.”
Davidovitch says that dancers should
ask their surgeons about dual mobility hip
replacements, which have two components
that move like a primary and secondary joint.
for greater range of motion and a lower dislo-
cation rate after surgery.
Another recent development is the
anterior approach to surgery. In the more
traditional posterior approach, the surgeon
enters the hip from behind. But in the anterior
approach, the surgeon enters the hip from the
front, which does not require cutting through
the large muscles in the back of the hip.
Davidovitch, who specializes in the anterior
Today’s technology leads to
better hip replacements that
no longer mean you need to
BY GARNET HENDERSON
Not all hip
Mazzini performing at
injuries lead to hip
diagnosis and physical
therapy can reduce the
chances of needing
Battery Dance Festival