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How Anterior Hip Replacement Helped Deb Get Back Her Active Life

For Deb, head coach of the DePauw University women’s volleyball team, nothing is better than coming up with a great game plan.

“There’s something that I love about volleyball from a strategic standpoint,” she said. “The game goes so well with my desire to be a competitor, but it also requires thinking things through — it just really fits my personality.”

Deb’s competitiveness means it’s important for her to be out on the court with her team, staying active. “Quite often, we can be practicing for three hours, and I’m on my feet the entire time,” she said. “I constantly walk the court, carry equipment, move the net, hit balls with my players — there’s a ton of activity.”

When persistent pain and a clicking sound in Deb’s hip started getting in the way of the physical demands of her job, she began to worry. That’s when she turned to Dr. David Harsha, medical director at DePauw — and a sports medicine physician at Hendricks Regional Health. 


For the love of the game.

Playing sports has pretty much always been a way of life for Deb. As a kid growing up in Spencer, Indiana, she loved basketball — a game she played throughout middle school, high school and at DePauw during her college years. Despite her love of shooting hoops, Deb discovered another passion: volleyball.

A big reason Deb became so fascinated with volleyball was because of a long line of inspiring coaches who pushed her to maximize her potential. One of them was Patty Dowdell, head coach of DePauw’s women’s team during her playing days. She would provide valuable mentorship that would inspire Deb to pursue her own coaching ambitions.  

“Patty was my volleyball coach at DePauw for the first two years and was an Olympian before that; she was actually the captain of the 1980 U.S.A. Women’s Volleyball Team,” said Deb. “She was an amazing coach with an incredible knowledge base.”  

Thanks to a lot of hard work and Patty’s mentorship, Deb had a very successful volleyball career as a player at DePauw. She wasn’t just a team captain and four-year starter, she also earned all-conference honors and was the team’s most valuable player in 1991. Deb helped lead her team to the NCAA Division III Championship tournament that same year. 

Soon after graduating, Deb decided to try out coaching. She landed a job at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she was an assistant coach for both the women’s volleyball and basketball teams. In her second year at Oberlin, she accepted the job as head women’s basketball coach, making her the youngest college basketball coach in the country.

But when the head women’s volleyball coaching position opened up at DePauw the following year, she knew she had to apply. Deb got the job, and more than two decades later, she’s still the head women’s volleyball coach at DePauw. “My student athletes keep me young — they’re a big part of why this job is so rewarding and why I stay here.”

However, after all those years of being an active coach, her hip started getting in the way of her ability to enjoy the job she loves. “There were times I would pull into work in the morning and just sit in my car for a few minutes,” she said. “I was dreading the walk from the parking lot up to my office. It was time to do something.”



A team approach.

When Deb first met with Dr. Harsha about her hip pain, they decided to try a few conservative measures to see how Deb’s hip would respond. After spending time on crutches and using some rehabilitation services, it became clear that greater action was needed. “Right after I saw Deb, I started plugging her into the services I felt were the right fit,” said Dr. Harsha. “She continued to have difficulties, so we moved to some imaging, and found a stress fracture.”

Unfortunately, Deb’s case got more complicated by chronic arthritis, which had caused joint deterioration. “The arthritis was definitely impairing Deb’s quality of life, so we moved forward with the great continuum of care we have here at Hendricks,” said Dr. Harsha. 

That meant involving Dr. Brad Prather, an orthopedic surgeon at Hendricks Regional Health, and a specialist at anterior hip replacement. “After Deb came to me from Dr. Harsha, we continued along a conservative course, but for someone who’s very active, that’s tough,” said Dr. Prather. “At a certain point, the x-rays and her ability to function dictated that the right approach was going to be a hip replacement.”

Deb agreed that replacing her hip was the right move. “I grew confident that surgery was the best option,” said Deb. “Dr. Harsha and Dr. Prather were in constant communication about my case. They knew how long I’d been on crutches, that I was trying to coach my team, trying to stay active and that after surgery, I would feel a lot better. 

She had anterior hip replacement surgery, a procedure that eliminates the need to cut any major muscles or ligaments. It also has many potential post-operative benefits for patients. “With anterior hip replacement, you can really see the advantageous nature of recovery,” said Dr. Prather. “I’ve noticed that people tend to have a speedier return to normal function, and often experience less pain.”

Deb’s surgery was a complete success. Amazingly, she stood up on the very same day as her procedure. Her husband couldn’t help but notice right away that she looked taller.

Before long, Deb was pain free, and back on the court with her team doing what she loves. “There are plenty of days where I don’t even think about my hip anymore. I’m back to doing everything I want to be doing,” said Deb. “I can’t feel any better about the surgery and the care I received.” 



Back in action.

Deb might be back in the gym with her team, but she’s also getting to spend more time being active with her son, daughter and husband. Since they all share her passion for athletics, there’s not much down time around their house.

“My son loves golf like his dad, and he plays basketball, too,” said Deb. “My daughter is actually into volleyball, but I never pushed her to play. I think she was just around my team over the years and fell in love with the game on her own. She’s very driven, and really good at it.”

The fact that her daughter shares her passion for volleyball is reason enough for Deb to be excited about being back on her feet again. But she can’t help also being excited that her hip won’t be getting in the way of being out on the court with her team.  

“When it comes to volleyball coaching, every day I wake up, and I’m challenged. I know that’s not going to change — it’s what I enjoy most about the job,” said Deb. “Now I’m back at it, and I can thank Hendricks Regional Health for that.”

Stay active. Work hard. And if an injury is keeping you from doing what you love, schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician: 

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