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Hip Arthritis

The hip is often referred to as a “ball and socket” joint. The ball at the top of the thigh bone (called the femur) fits into the socket (the acetabulum) in the pelvic bone. The femoral head serves as the ball. Under normal conditions it rotates inside of the socket. Coating the ball and lining of the socket is special joint cartilage, an ultra-smooth, firm rubber-like tissue, which allows these surfaces to glide without almost any friction over one another. Hip arthritis, also called hip osteoarthritis (OA), is a common condition affecting millions of middle-aged and older adults. Hip OA occurs when the cartilage over the joint breaks down This condition causes progressive pain and inflammation. For athletes, OA can limit participation in sports and performance at peak levels.

Hip Arthritis Hero Image 2

The hip is often referred to as a “ball and socket” joint. The ball at the top of the thigh bone (called the femur) fits into the socket (the acetabulum) in the pelvic bone. The femoral head serves as the ball. Under normal conditions it rotates inside of the socket. Coating the ball and lining of the socket is special joint cartilage, an ultra-smooth, firm rubber-like tissue, which allows these surfaces to glide without almost any friction over one another.

Hip arthritis, also called hip osteoarthritis (OA), is a common condition affecting millions of middle-aged and older adults. Hip OA occurs when the cartilage over the joint breaks down. Ultimately with time, this breakdown can lead to exposed bone in the hip joint. This condition causes progressive pain and inflammation. For athletes, OA can limit participation in sports and performance at peak levels.

What causes Hip Arthritis?

A variety of factors can contribute to the development and progression of OA of the hip. These include advancing age, a family history of hip arthritis, obesity, and certain congenital and developmental abnormalities of the hip. Previous injury and repetitive trauma, common in collision sports, can also increase your risk.

Overall, hip arthritis is more common in these sports:

• Soccer
• Hockey
• Football
• Lacrosse
• Long distance running
• Tennis

Symptoms

The most common symptom of hip arthritis is activity-related pain in the groin region. Pain usually develops gradually and gets worse over time. Other common symptoms include:

• Stiffness, especially when getting out of bed or after prolonged sitting
• Difficulty walking without a limp
• Trouble putting on your shoes and socks or cutting your toenails
• Limited ability to play sports

When to see a doctor

If you have had an injury and develop hip pain that persists for more than a few weeks, you should see your doctor. During your visit, your doctor will examine your hip and ask questions about your symptoms (the medical history) and your sports activity. Your doctor may move your leg to test your range of motion looking for stiffness and see what positions trigger pain in your hip. X-rays and other imaging tests may assist your doctor in making a diagnosis by detecting any damage to your hip joint.

Non-operative treatment

Your doctor will almost always recommend a non-surgical approach to address osteoarthritis and its symptoms. Treatment options could include:

• Substituting high impact sports that can aggravate and stress the hip (e.g. jogging) with low impact sports (e.g. swimming, bicycling)
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication like ibuprofen
• Losing weight to achieve ideal body weight so less stress is placed on your hip joint
• Physical therapy stretches and exercises to strengthen muscles around your hip joint
• Corticosteroids administered via injection to reduce tenderness and pain in the joint

You can also try these exercises at home:

Hip Arthritis

Surgical Treatment

If non-surgical treatments are not effective in providing relief from pain, your doctor may recommend surgical options that are right for you. These could include:

Total Hip Replacement: This procedure involves replacing the femoral head with a metal or ceramic ball and resurfacing the acetabulum with a metal shell and a polyethylene liner. These implants are mostly inserted without cement.

Hip Resurfacing: An alternative to a total hip replacement, this procedure involves resurfacing the acetabulum with a metal shell and resurfacing the femoral head with a metal cap. This is a metal-on-metal procedure.

Recovery

Depending on their sport, some athletes are able to return to their full level of play after hip replacement surgery. Recovery time for athletes who undergo surgery for hip arthritis varies depending on the type of surgery and the sport you may be participating in. A discussion with your surgeon is important prior to returning to your sport. Recovery can take several months and include brief use of a cane and occasionally physical therapy. Your doctor and physical therapist can guide you on your return to play.

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