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Minimally invasive surgery effective in athletes with common hip problem

Published on 19 July 2010

Athletes with femoro-acetabular impingement (FAI) - a common hip condition which can lead to arthritis - have a good chance of returning to competitive sport after undergoing arthroscopic treatment, a study has found.

FAI, or 'hip impingement', occurs when a bony bump on the upper thigh bone prevents the bone from moving freely in the cup-shaped socket of the pelvis. This can damage the rim of the socket and the cartilage lining the bones.

Symptoms often appear earlier in people who are athletic, but a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine shows that minimally invasive surgery can be effective.

The study looked at 47 patients, average age 22.8 years, to see whether high-level athletes who underwent arthroscopic surgery for FAI were subsequently able to return to the same level of competition.

Patients came from a variety of sporting disciplines - including football, baseball, swimming, hockey, running and tennis - and were followed up for at least one year.

Researchers found that X-rays showed an improvement in the anatomy of the hips after surgery.

Nearly four-fifths of patients were able to return to their sport after the procedure - typically 9.4 months after surgery - and 91.7 per cent of these were able to compete at the same level.

Dr Bryan Kelly, sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon and co-director of the Centre for Hip Pain and Preservation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, commented: "In athletic activities which require a high degree of motion and significant force through the joint, there can be earlier onset of symptomatic injury.

"This study demonstrates that there is high rate of return to pre-injury level of function with arthroscopic intervention."

Arthritis Research UK hosted a Tackling Osteoarthritis in Sport conference with the Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine in London in October 2010 to investigate the prevention and management of osteoarthritis following sport or exercise.

Launch of new £3m national centre for sports injuries

Professor Alan Silman

Arthritis Research UK launches £3m national centre for sports injuries research as 12 month countdown to London 2012 begins.

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