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Arthroscopic Hip Surgery May Help Athletes Get Back to Play

Bloomberg Businessweek; MSN Health & Fitness—July 15, 2010

The use of minimally invasive "arthroscopic" surgery to treat painful disorders of the hip offers athletes who undergo the procedure a good shot at ultimately resuming their respective sport at a highly competitive level, a new study suggests.

Researchers determined that nearly 80 percent of athletes suffering from hip arthritis sparked by internal ball and socket joint damage to the hip ("hip impingement") were able to return to their sport within an average of a little more than nine months following a hip arthroscopy.

What's more, about 90 percent were capable of competing at the same level as they had prior to their initial hip impairment, the study authors noted.

"In athletic activities which require a high degree of motion and significant force through the joint, there can be earlier onset of symptomatic injury," Dr. Bryan Kelly, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon and co-director of the Center for Hip Preservation at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, explained in a hospital news release.

And "although technically challenging, appropriately performed arthroscopic surgery results in less soft tissue trauma, less blood loss, shorter hospitalizations, and likely provides a faster return to a full recovery," Kelly added by way of comparing the small-incision surgical option with much more invasive standard "open surgery."

"This study," he continued, "demonstrates that there is high rate of return to pre-injury level of function with arthroscopic intervention. Before this study we knew that hip impingement occurred in athletes, but we were not certain as to the degree of our ability to treat this arthroscopically with a successful return to full function."

Kelly and his colleagues are slated to present their findings Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in Providence, R.I.

While hip impingement can occur among people who are genetically predisposed to experience the condition, athletes are particularly vulnerable. When it strikes, the syndrome often prompts pain, motion restriction, and general athletic performance impairment.

The current findings stem from work tracking 47 high-level athletes from a wide range of sports, including soccer, ice hockey, baseball, swimming, lacrosse, field hockey, football, running, tennis, horseback riding and crew. The patients were nearly 23 years old on average, and more than half played at the college varsity level.

All underwent arthroscopic surgery and were tracked for an average of about 16 months thereafter to assess their ability to return to a high level of competitive sport.


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