Millions of teenagers across the country participate in sports. They’re throwing the football in the backyard with their brothers, playing on the lacrosse team with friends, or taking dance lessons twice each week.
What they’re not doing is worrying about hip injuries. But, as with all things in life, sometimes bad things happen. Hip injuries are especially prevalent in young athletes because these kids are still growing. They have areas of new bone growth, called growth plates, which are weaker than actual bone and are especially vulnerable to injury. These growth plates may remain until the age of 15 in girls and the age of 17 in boys.
In this article, we’ll take a look at four common hip injuries in young athletes. You’ll get a brief explanation about each condition and learn about a few ways doctors treat these injuries.
#1 | Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)
SCFE is quite a complicated name, but this condition is the most common hip disorder in kids. It’s also most common in Africian-American and Hispanic children.
SCFE begins with damage to the growth plate in the upper part of the femur (the thigh bone). The head of the femur slowly slips down and back into the hip socket. At that point, it’s no longer aligned with the rest of the bone. Children may complain of pain in the knee, inner thigh, or groin.
Doctors can diagnose SCFE with an x-ray and, if the x-ray shows the condition, they’ll recommend the child doesn’t put any weight on the leg that’s affected. Surgery is required to fix SCFE. An orthopedic surgeon inserts a screw into the head of the femur to hold the bone together and prevent the head from slipping.
#2 | Hip Avulsion
Hip avulsion is a sudden fracture of the hip bone. It happens when a muscle contracts quickly, and a piece of bone is pulled off the hip by a tendon. This type of hip injury is seen in young athletes who participate in sports with sprinting and quick changes in movement. This includes sports like track and field, soccer, gymnastics, and tennis.
Doctors can diagnose a hip avulsion with x-rays. After that, rest is recommended for at least four weeks and doctors may recommend walking with crutches. Thankfully, surgery is rarely required. Physical therapy and strengthening exercises can help the teen return to normal activities.
#3 | Labral Tear
The labrum is a rim of cartilage that surrounds a ball-and-socket joint in order to make it more stable. In the hip, the labrum cushions the joint and holds the thigh bone in the hip socket. Labral tears usually occur in teens who are active in sports that require twisting of the legs like soccer, hockey, ballet, and football.
Sometimes, a labral tear occurs in combination with a structural problem with the hip. If that’s the case, doctors might suggest surgery to correct it. However, most labral tears can be treated with pain medications, rest, and physical therapy. Unfortunately, healing a labral tear can take up to 6 months.
#4 | Stress Fracture
A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone that’s caused by overuse. Young athletes who quickly ramp up their training or who change their training conditions are susceptible to stress fractures of the hip. These can occur in the pelvis, the sacrum (the bone at the base of the spine), or in the upper end of the femur.
When doctors suspect a hip stress fracture, they use a variety of methods to diagnose it. They’ll do a physical exam, talk to the athlete about his or her training, and take x-rays. However, more than 65% of stress fractures won’t show up on an x-ray. Doctors may recommend an MRI or other scan to make the final diagnosis.
Rest is the key treatment for a stress fracture in the hip. Young athletes may need to use crutches while their hip heals. It may be 6 to 8 weeks before they can make a slow return to playing sports.
If your teen is complaining of pain in the hip, groin, or knee, call Dr. Hill’s office to set up an appointment. The office is open weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm. We would be glad to set you up with the next available appointment!
If you’ve started to experience progression of hip pain symptoms, reach out to your orthopedic specialist to review treatment options and get suitable management guidelines for the foreseeable future.
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