A generation of sporty forty-somethings who are playing tennis and running into their sixties is costing the NHS millions, it was claimed today.
The craze for being fit and sporty in middle age is piling pressure on the NHS, which expects a 20 per cent rise in knee-replacement surgery within 10 years.
Pictures of David Cameron, 45, jogging, Boris Johnson, 47, cycling and Barack Obama, 50, playing basketball are all thought to be fueling the trend, a surgeon said.
David Barrett, an orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, told The Telegraph that, across the country, there is a raft of people in their 40s and 50s who are staying active for longer and refusing to ‘hang up their boots’ following an injury.
He said: ‘Sport has adapted to this trend. There are veterans’ football leagues, and triathlons are divided into age groups. It reflects an entirely new approach to life and the NHS is going to have to get its head around it.’
A knee replacement on the NHS costs around £7,600. Mr Barrett said there were 70,000 carried out in England every year but expects that figure to increase by 20 per cent.
Skiing, tennis, triathlons, running and football are to blame but Mr Barrett also said the increase in people partaking in extreme sports was a factor.
People believed it was not enough to do just one marathon and needed to complete several, or extreme 50-mile runs, he said.
The surgeon has now developed a less invasive knee operation, which resurfaces part of the joint rather than completely replacing it
The procedure is specifically designed for younger people and a far cry from the existing ‘clunky’ knee replacement joints.
Mr Barrett said: ‘We were putting knees for 75-year-olds in 50-year-olds. It is like expecting sports car performance from a family saloon and it wasn’t appropriate to their needs.’
The operation is 20 per cent cheaper than the standard replacement but the NHS will have to decide whether it will pay for the new type.
Mr Barrett said: ‘We could say that for a chap not being able to play golf but who can still get to his desk, why should the NHS shell out for surgery?’
By: Amy Oliver for Mail On Sunday
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