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New Study Finds Arthroscopic Hip Surgery May Fully Restore Function in Athletes

Hip problems can sideline even the best athletes, but a new study led by orthopedic experts from Rush University Medical Center indicates that the use of minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to treat painful disorders of the hip may give athletes who undergo the procedure another opportunity to resume their sport back at their pre-injury level of competition.

The researchers at Rush determined that 78 percent of athletes suffering from hip labral tear caused by internal ball and socket joint damage to the hip also known as hip femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) were able to return to their sport within an average of a little more than nine months following a hip arthroscopy. Also, 90 percent of the athletes were capable of competing at the same level as they had prior to their initial hip impairment.

“Arthroscopic hip surgery is an outpatient procedure that can decrease soft tissue trauma and decrease blood loss, leading to a faster recovery period compared to a more invasive open surgery,” said study lead investigator Dr. Shane J. Nho, who is asports medicine and hip arthroscopy expert at Rush University Medical Center. Nho also is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and co-head of the Hip Study Group at Rush University.

The study looked at arthroscopic surgical outcomes of 47 high-level, college and professional as well as high school varsity athletes in a wide range of sports including ice hockey, soccer, baseball, swimming, lacrosse, field hockey, football, running, tennis, horseback riding and crew. The average age of patients involved in the study was 23. All patients underwent arthroscopic surgery and were tracked for an average of 16 months to assess their ability to return to a high-level of competitive sport.

Hip arthroscopy is a less invasive outpatient procedure compared to traditional open hip surgery. It is performed by an orthopedic surgeon who makes small incisions about 1 centimeter each that permits the insertion of a tiny camera in order to visualize the inside of a joint. Small surgical instruments are then used through the incisions to make the repairs.

All patients involved in the study were diagnosed with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), a condition that occurs when the femoral head of the thigh bone rubs abnormally against the acetabulum, or cup-like socket of the hip joint. This rubbing results in damage to the rim of the hip socket as well as the cartilage that covers the hip bones.

“Some people may be genetically inclined to develop FAI, but many athletes experience early on-set of symptoms of FAI because of their athletic activities require a high degree of motion and force through the joint,” said Nho. “Symptoms of FAI symptoms include pain, limited range of motion, and for athletes, loss of the ability to compete at their top level.”

Nho presented the study findings at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine held in July in Providence, R.I.

Rush University Medical Center is a 676-bed academic medical center that includes Rush Children's Hospital, the Johnston R. Bowman Health Center (a 61-bed rehabilitation facility), and Rush University. Rush is a not-for-profit health care, education and research enterprise. Rush University is home to one of the first medical colleges in the Midwest and includes one of the nation's top-ranked nursing colleges, as well as graduate programs in allied health, health systems management and biomedical research.

Orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center was ranked higher (# 10 in the nation) than any other Illinois hospital in orthopedics in 2010 by U.S.News & World Report.

Deb Song | EurekAlert!
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