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Coach K: Osteoarthritis Can Be Beaten
Date:10/12/2009

Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski overcame potentially crippling foe

MONDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- As head coach of the Duke University men's basketball team for the past 29 years, Mike Krzyzewski has faced plenty of tough opponents. But none proved to be more formidable than osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

Krzyzewski (pronounced shah-SHEFF-skee) says he began experiencing severe hip discomfort during the 1994 season. With the help of physical therapy and over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, he managed to put up with the pain for five years. He considered joint-replacement surgery but kept putting it off.

"Being a coach and an athlete, I thought I should be able to tough it out," he said. "But the pain became crazy-bad during the 1998-1999 season. The last couple of months of the season, I had to coach while sitting on a stool. I thought I would have to give up coaching altogether."

But Coach K, as he is widely known, refused to give up the game he loved. Instead, he gave up his left hip, opting to undergo total joint replacement surgery in April 1999, when he was 52. By the following June, he was back to his normal activities -- only his hip was now pain-free and he was no longer walking with a limp. Two years later, he led the Blue Devils to their third national championship.

Now 62, Krzyzewski says he wishes he had had surgery sooner. Given the years of pain and increasing disability he endured, he said his decision to delay surgery "was not a smart thing to do."

So, when his right hip began to bother him, he was quicker to go under the knife, having a second joint replacement operation in April 2002. Like the first, the second surgery was a success: Krzyzewski is again a spirited presence at courtside -- and not only at Duke. In 2008, he led the USA men's basketball team to a gold medal pe
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