Gerald Henderson handled the hip pain on the basketball court, playing multiple seasons with severe arthritis.
But he had enough of the pain that drifted into his everyday life.
“My hip had deteriorated so much, it was bone on bone,” he said. “It was grinding all day whenever I wanted to move. Working out for any extended period was painful. It was just tough then going home with the family and you’re in pain, you’re just kind of on edge.
“Just overall, I was not in a great state of mind, and I had to make that decision, and it was the best decision for myself and my family and for my health.”
Henderson, who is a free agent this summer, decided on a progressive surgery called hip resurfacing in which a surgeon places a metal cap on the femoral head and replaces the damaged bone with a metal shell, eliminating the bone-on-bone arthritic friction.
The surgery, which it not a hip replacement because the femoral head or thighbone is not completely removed, has been performed in the U.S. since 2006, according to Dr. Edwin Su who performed Henderson’s surgery.
“He has very good bone quality and structure,” said Su, an orthopaedic joint replacement surgeon at the Hospital For Special Surgery in New York. “The fact he was competing at a high level with a bad hip already, that tells me he has the muscle strength to support his body even in the setting of bone-on-bone arthritis.
“That’s a good sign that once I fix that hip and get rid of the bone-on-bone arthritis, he’s going to be even better. He’s not going to have the pain he had before.”
Su said Tiago Splitter is the only other NBA player he can recall undergoing the same procedure.
“The procedure is designed for younger patients because it preserves as much bone as possible, and it creates a joint that’s very stable which is more conducive to a young person’s lifestyle,” Su said.
Surgery required Henderson to miss the 2017-18 season for recovery and rehab.
“I love to play which is why I played with the pain for a number of years,” he said. “But it just wasn’t worth it anymore. My overall well-being and health became more important at that time.”
Now, he’s ready to rejoin the NBA. He had teams willing to sign him a year ago despite the bad hip.
“In terms of my hip, it’s the best it’s been in a long time,” Henderson said. “You go three or four years and you have an injury, a lot of stuff gets off balance. Overall, I’ve been able to get my body into really good shape – strength and mobility from my toes to my head. It’s been a therapeutic year.”
He spent the year recovering and rehabbing and returning to game condition. He worked with physical therapists and trainers and remained around the game visiting Duke where he played college basketball. He sat in on coaches’ meetings and practices.
“It was tough,” Henderson said. “It probably made it worse that I watched so many games. I have a lot of buddies who play so I tried to watch them and keep up with them. It’s tough. You’re typically gone half the time. You’re always on the move. Then you find yourself in a position where that’s not happening and you’re sitting at home doing the same stuff every day. It takes a lot of discipline and not sulking about your situation and looking forward to what you’re trying to accomplish.”
He has been cleared for and participating in all basketball-related activities, working out six days a week on the court, in the weight room and in the pool. He also does yoga and cryotherapy to decrease inflammation and help with recovery.
Playing his three previous seasons with hip pain, Henderson still played at least 72 games a season, averaging 10.1 points in 24.2 minutes per game.
“I want to be on a team that’s committed to winning and can realistically be in a position to win,” Henderson said. “There’s nothing like being on a team where everybody has the same goal, everybody’s unselfish and plays the game the right way and that all leads to success in the end. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking forward to be a big part of that.
“I don’t intend to go somewhere and just be the veteran voice on the team and watch everybody play and encourage guys, which I absolutely can do – be a great a teammates and a veteran voice – but I intend to do that along with playing and performing well and contributing like I very much have. I feel like I’m at my physical prime, and this hip injury is just a bump in the road. It will take me a new place in my career.”