You’re never too old to set a world record
Breaking his neck in two places, replacing his right hip and then undergoing a reverse shoulder replacement couldn’t keep John Burrell down. In fact, the 76-year-old former triathlete recently set a world record in recumbent biking.
He credits his doctors for keeping him competitive as he aged, from qualifying for the national triathlon championships to setting the world record in the 100Km outdoor velodrome in the male 75-79 age group on a recumbent bike in September.
“It’s a great source of comfort just knowing that someone could quickly diagnose and remedy the situation,” Burrell says. “They listened to me.”
Dr. Junaid Makda and Dr. Mark Neault, orthopedic surgeons at Advocate Medical Group, both played a role in Burrell’s recent accomplishment. Dr. Makda replaced Burrell’s hip in 2018 and Dr. Neault performed his most recent procedure, a reverse shoulder replacement.
“For athletes like John, it’s especially important to see a doctor as soon as you’re experiencing pain so we can diagnose and treat injuries when they spring up,” says Dr. Neault.
Before his hip replacement, Burrell was a triathlete committed to biking, running and swimming his way to the finish line. But after his procedure in 2018, Dr. Makda recommended he stick to biking, as running could be difficult on his body. This is when Burrell began taking biking seriously.
“The purpose of a hip replacement is to allow patients to get back to doing what they like to do,” says Dr. Makda. “The satisfaction of a hip replacement is 90% and upwards. It’s a well-tolerated surgery.”
Grueling weeks of physical therapy followed each procedure, but Burrell never gave up, continuing to train until finally he broke a world record.
“I’m so happy that I was able to help him get to achieving that record,” Dr. Makda says. “It’s better to get these procedures sooner rather than later because the older you get, the harder it is for you to bounce back from surgery and the less time you have to enjoy it. When you feel like you’ve exhausted nonsurgical options, then it’s a good idea to go forward.”
As for Burrell, he’s still basking in his world record win and hopes to continue his competitive spirit. He knows his care team is at the ready should he need them to cross his next finish line.
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