Have mystery hip pain? It may be a torn labrum

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 31, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 31 at 6:45 PM

Know anyone with hip pain? Many young, active people have it.  It's a problem hidden deep within the joint that often goes misdiagnosed.

On the basketball court, Costen Irons is king. The stand-out athlete was plagued by 15 years of chronic hip and groin pain.

"I'd play through the pain, but the rest of my life, I was always looking, where can I sit down?" said Irons.

He had surgery but the pain persisted.

"I went back to the surgeon and he said you're crazy. This is great and you shouldn't have any pain," he said.

"A lot of our patients have had symptoms for many years. They many times have had other diagnoses for their pain," said Dr. Allston Stubbs, orthopedic surgeon, Wake Forest University, Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC.

The answer for many: a hip labral tear. The cartilage that seals the hip joint breaks away and gets pinched in the socket.

"The analogy I often use is the thorn in the lion's paw," said Stubbs.

The area is buried beneath muscles, tendons and ligaments deep inside the body, so it's often overlooked. Many times it leads to unnecessary surgery.

"In the female population, they may have had hysterectomies," said Stubbs.

Dr. Stubbs makes two dime-sized incisions and shaves the bone and socket so they fit together without pinching. He re-attaches the cartilage with stitches that promote new bone growth. The surgery helped Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Philadelphia Phillie Chase Utley.

Irons is grateful he finally found a solution.

"As soon as I had the surgery, there were movements I could do," said Utley.

He may never make it to the pros, but the elementary school gym teacher is just happy to do his job pain-free.

The procedure is a two-hour outpatient surgery, and patients are often on crutches for about a month afterward. There is a risk the pain will persist even after surgery and doctors will have to go back in and scope out the area again.  The surgery is reserved for those who don't improve with physical therapy and injections.
 

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