Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus' many accomplishments - 71 official PGA tour victories and a record 20 major championship wins, are quite remarkable, but they become truly amazing when one stops to consider that he put the finishing touches on his legacy while suffering debilitating hip joint pain.
In 1963, while playing the final hole of a pro-am on the eve of a tournament, Jack mis-hit an approach shot and subsequently suffered pain in his left hip. The injury was severe enough to force Jack to endure some 23 cortisone injections over a 10-week period. Then over the ensuing decades, Jack's hip pain got progressively worse and he began a long and painful journey that ultimately ended in January 1999 when he received a ceramic-on-ceramic and titanium hip implant.
When he initially suffered the injury, Jack, a second-year pro, who was both athletic and in good health, simply shrugged off his pain, thinking of it as a minor annoyance rather than something that would come to define his life. Eventually, however, Jack's pain reached such a debilitating level that it began to impact his life both on and off the golf course.
As many people with chronic hip pain will attest, Jack's life, in the years prior to surgery, ceased to be his own and was instead dictated in many ways by how he could best manage his pain. The pain level was lowest in the morning, so that's when Jack would schedule his most demanding activities. Routine and pleasurable activities like shopping with his wife Barbara, hunting with his four sons, or playing in the backyard with his grandchildren became unbearable chores. Even driving became difficult. His quality of life slumped markedly.
In 1998, Jack's general health began to suffer as a result of his hip pain. Remarkably and to this legendary athlete's credit, the Golden Bear still showed flashes of golfing brilliance. At age 58, he finished tied for sixth in the 1998 Masters and as he said, "playing on one leg." The pain, however, continued to spill over into his daily and professional life. He opted to skip the British Open and PGA Championships - ending an amazing streak that saw him play in 154 consecutive major championships-and eventually shut down his playing season completely by early Fall. Jack, his family and physicians decided it was time to seek relief from the pain, and it was determined in January 1999 that Jack would receive a ceramic-on-ceramic and titanium hip implant manufactured by Stryker Corporation. Jack's surgery was performed at New England Baptist Hospital.
The ceramic-on-ceramic and titanium hip implant combined with a physical therapy regimen has allowed Jack to resume his daily activities like those that so many of us take for granted. Now, those after-dinner walks with Barbara, the weekends spent playing with grandchildren and even drives to the office, have regained their joys. To quote Jack, "I did it to get back my life, not just for golf."