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They Told Me My “Hip Was Shot”

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June 9, 2023

Olympic weightlifting and Strongman Champ Tony Kalisz undergoes hip replacement in order to compete once again

Tony Kalisz is 45 years old, married with two daughters, 9 and 11. An industrial custom metal fabricator by profession, Tony says he “can basically build anything you want out of metal. His hobbies include fishing in Lake Ontario for salmon and, most importantly, Olympic weightlifting and strongman training and competition, which he says, “got me into this hip problem.”

By the way, his one daughter is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and the other was testing for the same designation.

In 2000, Tony was at the Buffalo Athletic Club when a “strongman” promoter observed him working out. Noticing that Tony had some natural ability, the promoter invited him to enter the upcoming strongman contest at Sunset Bay Beach Club.

Tony was like, “what the heck,” began training and did quite well in the competition. He ended up winning the lightweight class with one of his lifts, that Tony describes as a “power clean that is an Olympic weightlifting movement.” After the contest, he began training more seriously for Olympic weightlifting and competed in numerous events, which led to 5 state championships, 3 state records and a bronze in the 2005 nationals!

Tony went on to compete in the Pan American Weightlifting Championships in 2008, which was also an Olympic tryout. The Pan Ams are the continental weightlifting championships for nations from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The 2008 event was held in Callao, Peru.

Eventually, says Tony, age caught up and he switched to strongman training, which he ended up being even better at. Finishing in 3rd place in 2018, he won the national title the following year. Also competing at a “master’s level” that comprises over 40 world championships, he came in third.

“Yeah, I had really good success and now I run a strongman crew locally and we run contests.” In fact, he says, this summer they are also managing a charity contest for a friend that tragically lost his son in an auto accident.

Tony says the event will be help on August 5th in Lockport, NY and details can be found at https://ironpodium.com/browse/event/the-compound-strikes-back-1.

When did the hip injury occur?

“I have a general idea of when the hip injury occurred. I was born with a crooked leg and had to wear a brace as a child. That may have had something to do with it, but I didn’t have any issues until a water-skiing incident when I was 20.” Tony describes that, as a robust 20-year-old, he didn’t feel it necessary to go to a doctor and just limped for 3 months, feeling it would eventually go away. That, too, may have been a contributor.

However, in the long run, he’s quite sure that it was mostly wear and tear due to the years and the amount of weightlifting he had done. “Squatting with 500 lbs., running with 700 lbs. on your back, lifting heavy stones,” no doubt has a profound effect on the hips, says Tony.

She told me it was the worst hip she had ever seen

Tony relates how he trained with a friend who recommended UBMD Orthopaedics and once evaluated, they worked on his back, both knees, both shoulders, his wrist, his left elbow and his hip! “The hip was the most serious and debilitating,” he says. “I had zero cartilage left and I was told by the group’s Dr. K. Keely Boyle that it was ‘the worst hip she had ever seen.’ ” Dr. Boyle specializes in lower extremity joint replacement and reconstruction. She told Tony that his hip “was shot.” “That’s what I liked about her. She tells it how it is and doesn’t sugarcoat. You know exactly where you stand.”

“It was a big problem,” says Tony. “It hurt so bad at night that I couldn’t sleep. And that was constant, like a deep bone ache. It was affecting my mood and quality of life. That’s when Dr. Boyle offered me the Birmingham hip replacement which is the most durable option. It has allowed me to train and compete again. A standard hip replacement would be a shorter recovery period, but they wear out way faster and I wanted to stay active,” explains Tony.

So, in March 2022, Tony underwent the procedure. It took about 6 months for him to get clearance to compete once again. “I followed the protocol for physical therapy two days a week and I added a third.” And in fact, he has successfully competed twice in the meantime.

Post-op quality of life

Tony was in and out of the hospital with one overnight stay. He describes that he almost went home the same day, but the surgery took a bit longer than expected because of his “stubborn hip,” and by the time they got him back to his room, he was exhausted, and the doctor decided to keep him in overnight. But, he says, “They had me up and walking that same night!”

The first time he stood up after surgery, “it felt like my hip was spring-loaded because everything was so tight. It’s doing pretty good now, I have a bit of pain here and there, but nowhere like it was.”

In describing the best part of his experience, Tony doesn’t hesitate. “The best part would be being able to lay down at night and not be in pain. And still being able to take part in the sport that I really love.”

Tony went to follow-ups every three months. “Dr. Boyle did the x-rays, and everything looked good. I showed her some of the videos of the lifts I had done, she’s like ‘oh man.’ “

When asked what advice he would give anyone suffering with a hip injury, he quickly exclaimed, “Go to the doctor. Go to an orthopaedic specialist. Go to UBMD Ortho. Get checked out, don’t wait. Waiting only makes it worse.”