Kate McPherson of Raleigh started dancing at age three. “My mom put me into lessons because I was so shy,” she said. “My first time on stage, I didn’t want to get off.” To say she had found her true passion could be an understatement.
By the time she was a pre-teen, McPherson was dancing more than 20 hours a week —ballet, tap, jazz. Around this time she began noticing that her hips would hurt after practice. “I didn’t want to quit, so I kept going,” she said.
McPherson would live with this pain for years. Eventually, it got so bad she had trouble walking. Still she maintained, “Quitting dancing was not an option.”
Determining why such a young girl was in so much pain took some time. “I went to a bunch of different doctors and none of them really took the time to investigate what was wrong,” she said. “I have a really high tolerance for pain, so I knew that if I was feeling like this, something was wrong. Then I went to Dr. Mather.”
Richard Mather, MD, is a Duke orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hip pain, hip injuries and hip preservation surgery. “He did an MRI with a dye injection and he saw all the tears and the hip impingement (when the ball-and-socket joint does not fit properly),” said McPherson. “He said, ‘I can’t believe you’ve been dancing like this.’ He said this probably would have happened to me around age 40, but because of the dancing, I was having problems much earlier.”
McPherson had already tried physical therapy many times over the years. Along with her family, she agreed with Mather that surgery would be her best option.
Mather performed arthroscopic surgery on both of McPherson’s hips. He used small incisions (and a small camera) to repair damage to the cartilage and the ball-and-socket joints.
McPherson was 17 at the time of her surgery. Once she recovered, she said, “Normal life was pretty easy. I started walking. Carrying heavy stuff was an issue. By the end of my senior year, I was dancing.”
Today McPherson is a chemistry major at East Carolina University and still tap dances. And although she had to give up ballet to protect her hips, she has added running to her hobbies, “So I can stay active,” she said.