a man running on a boardwalk

Comeback Champion:
Dan Volpe

September 14, 2023

From Hip Replacement to Triathlon Triumph: The Inspiring Journey of Dan Volpe

In the summer of 2021, Bluegrass Orthopaedics and Scott County High School athletic trainer Dan Volpe began having pain in his left hip during the beginning of pre-season football practice. As an athletic trainer, Dan realized this was not the best time to have an injury. He attempted to treat his pain with ice, Advil and stretching after long days of practice and being on his feet. Initially, these measures provided some relief. However, as the football season progressed, Dan's condition worsened to the point where he could no longer sprint onto the field and struggled to walk by the end of each day.

Once football season was over, Dan decided it was time to see Dr. Kevin Denehy, a renowned hip and knee specialist at Bluegrass Orthopaedics. At his appointment in December of 2021, the x-rays and MRI results demonstrated arthritis and after consulting with Dr. Denehy, Dan decided to undergo total hip replacement surgery. However, at 48 years old, Dan initially expressed, "I thought I was too young to need hip replacement surgery".

Fearful of how the surgery would affect his training and triathlon participation, Dr. Denehy convinced him this was the best course of treatment due to the damage to my hip and surrounding area. Dan quickly realized that Dr. Denehy was absolutely right.


At that point, Dan scheduled and prepared for surgery for June of 2022.

He remembered, "One of the most common questions I received was why would I waited so long if I was in that amount of pain!"

Post-Op X-Ray
"First, my job as a high school athletic trainer made it difficult to take off three weeks during the school year. Secondly, as mentioned above, I wanted to be able to continue to participate in triathlons, specifically Ironman 70.3 races. During my training for these races, I had no pain when biking or swimming, but running was next to impossible. In addition, after talking with Dr. Denehy, he could not guarantee that I would be able to continue participating in the races. With all of this weighing on my mind, I decided to sign up for one last race a week before the scheduled surgery. I was only able to complete the race by putting ice on my hip at every aid station during the run portion. My run time was very slow due to this, but I was determined to finish even if I had to walk."

Dan had hip replacement surgery in June of 2022. The surgery went smoothly, and he was up walking later that day. Soon afterwards, he began physical therapy with Evan Hall, PT at Bluegrass Orthopedics in Georgetown.

"I know what you are thinking - Why is an athletic trainer going to physical therapy? The answer is simple. As a high school athletic trainer, I do not work with athletes with hip replacements. That brand of physical therapy was out of my wheelhouse. A second reason was to keep myself accountable and to not move too fast too soon. I worked with Evan and the gang in Georgetown for about a month to regain my range of motion, balance and strength."

As Dr. Denehy knew Dan's history and desire to return to racing, he ordered, "No running for at least 2-3 months following surgery", although he was able to walk on the treadmill and ride a stationary bike during that time. He did have to wait about a month or so to let the incision heal before he could start swimming again. In September of 2022, Dan started to slowly get back into training, doing everything on a treadmill and an indoor bicycle trainer in order to keep things as safe as possible.


In June of 2023, it was time to test his new hip. The first little test was the Nashville sprint triathlon, which consists of a 400m swim, a 12 mile bike portion, and a 5k run. He passed this test with, as he recalled, "No pain or discomfort and was even faster than the last time I participated in the same race!"

Next was "The Big Test!" - The Ironman 70.3 Steelhead in Benton Harbor, MI. For those who do not know, a 70.3 race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and then a 13.1 mile run or half-marathon. Dan had two goals for this race: "I wanted to finish, and I wanted to beat my previous time." Both of those goals were completed successfully! He finished the race about an hour faster than he did the previous year.

Dan says, "Now it's time to build on this success. My next adventure will be Ironman 70.3 Des Moines in June of 2024. Wish me luck!"

To learn more about Bluegrass Orthopaedics' total joint specialist, Dr. Kevin Denehy, click here!

Kevin Denehy, MD