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Retired Football Pro Scores a Health Victory at NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute

Monday, May 23, 2022 12:43 PM

During his 16 years with pro football’s Houston Oilers, Elvin Bethea was a force to be reckoned with. The legendary defensive end’s 105 quarterback sacks still rank as the best in franchise history. Bethea is tough and accustomed to pushing through pain, until two years ago when a stabbing jolt in his hip sacked his retirement plans. Instead of bass fishing, golfing and tending to his yard, the Hall of Famer became nearly immobile and very disheartened. 

“I thought it was just a pulled groin,” recalled Bethea, now age 75 and living in Houston. “I went to the doctor, and they gave me a shot and I said to myself, ‘Well, that should do it.’ But it didn’t.”

Bethea NorthShore Ortho Hero

Watch Bethea’s step-by-step ortho experience.

Opportunity to Build Trust
Bethea’s health history includes 14 previous surgeries, so he was understandably reluctant to proceed with number 15. That is, until he met Ravi Bashyal, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute.

The two men met at the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Dr. Bashyal was there to continue the Orthopaedic & Spine Institute’s partnership with Hall of Fame Health, an entity formed in early 2020 to help former players address their health-related issues. Bethea’s wife, Pat, encouraged her husband to seize the moment and meet with a joint specialist for expert advice.

“As I was sitting there, a wonderful gentleman I recognized from his playing days came up to me,” noted Dr. Bashyal, who serves as Director of Outpatient Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery.

“A lot of these guys are hesitant to seek care, and I could tell from my clinical exam with Elvin that he had a severely arthritic hip. But beyond that, we just found a common bond,” added Dr. Bashyal. “We spent about 30 or 40 minutes talking about fishing, golf and life.”

Innovative Surgical Options
Despite being 1,000 miles apart, the couple’s trust in Dr. Bashyal deepened through telehealth appointments, text messages and phone calls. Dr. Bashyal listened intently to Bethea’s questions about joint replacement surgery and addressed each one of them thoroughly.

Minimally invasive hip replacement offered at the Orthopaedic & Spine Institute lessens the impact of surgery because it spares muscle tissue. This advancement, and other innovative techniques for which the Institute is known, would help control pain and lead to a faster recovery.

“What I like about Dr. Bashyal is that he’s very personal,” Bethea said. “I felt very much at ease talking with him. I remember he told me, ‘You’ll be walking the same day of the surgery and that was exactly what I needed to hear!”

Destination for World-Class Care
Although bone-chilling cold was not part of his retirement plan, Bethea traveled from Houston to Chicagoland last

November for surgery at the Institute’s specialty hospital in Skokie. Post-surgery, he remained in the local area for an additional eight days, which allowed physical therapists and home health nurses to aid in his initial recovery.

“The pain is gone, totally gone. I feel great,” Bethea said after the surgery. “For what I’ve been through and what I feel now, it’s like night and day. A 180- degree turnaround.”

Bethea’s legacy on the football field will live on forever, but the pain that nearly crippled him off the field is now a part of his past.

“Elvin is a retired Hall of Famer, as well as a fisherman, golfer and gardener,” Dr. Bashyal noted. “He’s not a 75-year-old retired football player who can’t move around anymore. That is not his identity. And that’s the most important part of our job—helping people get their quality of life back.”

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