HIP replacements are usually associated with older people.

At 29, Jimmy Walker is probably one of the youngest patients to undergo the procedure - and he’s looking forward to strapping on his skis for his favourite holiday.

Sporting activities play a big part in Jimmy’s life so when he began struggling with arthritic pain around four years ago he decided to do something about it.

Jimmy was originally referred to specialist hip surgeon Mr Jon Conroy by the club physio at Keighley RUFC where he played in the first team.

A fairly minor injury on the pitch signalled the start of his long and painful journey to the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital where he had the life-changing Mako robot-assisted surgery in July.

“During a match, I damaged my hip and felt a burst of pain. But it seemed to get better over time so I carried on playing,” explains Jimmy.

“Eventually, it would get to the point where I would have pain for days after a match or training so I went to see Mr Conroy.

“We opted for cortisone injections which worked really well for a couple of years but I think I knew it wasn’t a long-term solution.”

Keen to keep active, Jimmy adapted his activities.

“I swapped rugby for football until another injury forced me to give that up too. I started running and this made my hip worse again and I’d be limping for days after exercising.”

Jimmy discovered the extent of his pain during a family holiday.

“About 18 months ago I found out my cartilage had completely worn away and the cortisone injections didn’t seem to be working at all. It got so bad on a family holiday that I was struggling to walk more than 50 to 100 metres.”

Jimmy, from Saltaire, acknowledges 29 is young to be having a hip replacement. Many may contemplate whether it’s too young to undergo the procedure and perhaps put it off for as long as possible but often the decision is dictated by the pain and the impact it has on quality of life.

In Jimmy’s case the deterioration and the pain were beginning to impact significantly on his life and he was starting to feel down about the things he enjoyed but was struggling to do.

“I looked at it very black and white and thought if that is what will cure me that is the way to go,” says Jimmy.

“I have known various people in my family who have had hip replacements and I had only heard good things once they had them. I thought if that is what is going to help me get a better quality of life that is what I will do.”

Jimmy was also aware that the modern technology and new procedures available would give him the best chance of a better outcome.

“I’d heard about the Mako robot-assisted surgery and how it improved the accuracy of the procedure so I decided to go ahead as soon as the World Cup was over,” says Jimmy.

Weeks after the operation Jimmy began a staged return to his role as a technical sales engineer in the automotive industry. He was also able to participate in spinning classes at his local gym.

Now Jimmy is leading the active life he loves and was preparing for his first parkrun when we spoke.

“I was 100 per cent happy with my recovery after the operation. I wasn’t limping and the pain that was in my hip had disappeared.

“Now I don’t get any residual pain after exercising and the weight is beginning to come off since returning to the gym. I can’t wait to get back to sports, particularly football and perhaps even skiing this season!

“Having the operation and seeing where I was to where I am now I don’t see any limits as to what I can do which is great for me. I’m back in the gym, doing lots of exercise and, as a result, feel a lot happier and my physical condition is a lot better.”

Jimmy’s consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Jon Conroy says: “Hip replacement in patients under 30 years old is unusual but the numbers having surgery is growing.

“This is in part due to advances in technology giving confidence that current hips will last longer than older designs despite increased demands put on them by a young active population.”

Mr Conroy, who is understood to have been the first to perform Mako robotic-assisted hip replacement in the North of England in 2017 at the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, explains the national joint registry reports more than 95% of patients younger than 55 years will still have their hip replacement after 13 years.

Alongside his medical training, Mr Conroy also has a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Leeds University and is part of an American design team developing hip replacements of the future.

Says Jimmy: “I’m not naïve enough to think that this new hip will last the rest of my life. It could last anything from 15 to 25 years. But it was more important for me to have a good working hip now than when I’m 65.

“I wanted the pain to go and to get back to normal so it was better to just get on with it rather than waiting any longer.”

Says Mr Conroy: “Jimmy is an unusual but increasingly seen case of a young person whose life is affected by arthritis.

“At the prime time of his life, he was only able to walk short distances, his work was affected and he was unable to participate in any sport.

“It is always sensible to try alternatives before surgery but in Jimmy’s case non-operative treatment was unsuccessful and his quality of life poor.

“As an experienced hip surgeon, I see many young patients who have struggled for many years with severe arthritis and after hip replacement wish they had chosen the option earlier.

“My interest in design of new hip technologies has given me confidence in the new products we implant and importantly how accurately they are implanted.

“Jimmy had a titanium hip with ceramic on highly crossed-linked polyethylene bearing. We choose this latest technology of titanium for younger or active patients to reduce wear. This links with the optimal robot positioning of the hip to reduce wear also.

“Combined with the accuracy of the robotic procedure we would expect lower wear rates than traditionally seen benefitting the younger patient. I’m delighted we can offer patients at the Leeds Nuffield access to cutting-edge technology on a par with any hospital in the world.”