With greater awareness and outpatient treatment, it's easier than ever
to treat hip problems.
When people think of hip problems, they usually think they’re limited
to older people with frail bones or joints. But even young athletes and
weekend warriors can fall prey to hip injuries, says
Bob Yin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
“These injuries are more recognized now because of improved technology--we
have better MRI scans and minimally invasive surgical techniques,"
Dr. Yin says. "In the past we had a limited ability to diagnose and
easily treat these injuries because the hip is a large joint that’s
not as accessible as the knees.”
Who’s at risk for hip injuries?
Athletes who participate in a range of sports can be susceptible to hip
injuries, says Dr. Yin. “We see it a lot in young hockey players,”
he says. “Softball and baseball players can also have hip injuries,
especially catchers who are squatting repetitively. Gymnastics, cheerleading—basically
any sport that requires an extreme range of motion of the hip on a regular
basis—can pose problems.”
What are the most common hip problems?
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that relies on a cartilage ring called
the labrum to act as a gasket sealing the thigh and pelvic bones together
in the joint. “It’s common to see labral tears when the hip
is used excessively or an athlete falls and injures himself, and that
can affect the stability of the hip,” Dr. Yin says. “The other
common issue is called impingement. That’s when the bones in the
hip don’t fit properly and make abnormal contact in the joint, which
can be debilitating. People can be born with it, or it can develop over
What are the signs of hip injury?
“There will be pain and the inability to do the usual athletic activity,”
Dr. Yin says. “An athlete may be unable to even do exercises such
as squats, lunges, leg presses or go on a treadmill because of the pain.”
Parents of teen athletes should watch their children for an unwillingness
to participate in their usual activities—and that goes beyond gym
class. “If the child goes to school with hip pain or discomfort,
it can affect the ability to sit in class, so parents have to watch for
difficulty in academic performance,” Dr. Yin says. “Someone
can also feel symptomatic during a long car ride in a fixed position.
That can extend into pain and discomfort during daily living, even just
sitting and walking.”
How can hip injuries be treated?
Dr. Yin stresses that hip pain should be checked by a physician. “If
it goes unchecked, it could develop into progressive degeneration of the
joint,” Dr. Yin says. “We also recognize that some people
with hip pain and its symptoms won’t require surgery, so it’s
best to seek a physician’s advice.”
Dr. Yin starts with more conservative treatment options, which can include
modifying or stopping the activity that is causing the hip problems; physical
therapy to change the mechanics of the hip; or cortisone or pain medication
injections into the joint if it’s inflamed, rather than a labral tear.
If the hip injury is more severe, the minimally invasive surgical option
is called hip arthroscopy. “This uses three or four small incisions
to access the hip joint with a small camera and surgical instruments,
compared to one larger incision with traditional hip surgery,” Dr.
Yin says. “This is an outpatient procedure, and most patients are
back to work after one to two weeks and back to their recreational activities
after three months. I had a patient in his 50s who was a golfer who developed
hip pain from a tear that was affecting his swing. He went back to golf
after three months and the last time I saw him he had a lower handicap
The goal with hip arthroscopy is “hip preservation,” Dr. Yin
adds. “What we can do is intervene early in degenerative problems
to delay or prevent hip replacement later on.”
Can the hips be helped in other ways?
When it comes to hip problems, Dr. Yin says prevention is better than curing.
“One preventive measure is proper stretching
before and after exercise. The focus should be on stretching the lower back and hamstring muscles,
as well as the core. Stretching should also be done with a purpose—don’t
stretch to pass the time, but do it with the same thoughtfulness that
would be part of any athletic training regimen or workout.”
Dr. Yin adds that anyone who lifts weights during training should focus
on using proper form with each move, rather than just how heavy the weight
is. “And core strength and stability is important. Don’t think
only about the extremities during weightlifting. Core strength helps with
hip durability, which can prevent injury.”
Does your doctor recommend you see a specialist for a painful sports injury? Find a
St. Joseph Health orthopedic surgeon near you.