Nov 6, 2013

Hip Labral Tear: Is Your Young Athlete at Risk? A hip labral tear can occur as the result of overuse of the hips during sports such as hockey, football, soccer and golf.

Athletes who participate in sports like ice hockey, soccer, football and golf are at increased risk of tearing their acetabular labral (hip) cartilage due to repetitive motion required by the sport.

The hip pain started gradually and was barely noticeable in the beginning. First, it was an ache after a sprint with the football. Then, it was a dull throb as he raced around the bases in baseball. Finally, it became a constant, agonizing reminder of every step. It was obvious the pain in 14-year-old Garrett McPherson’s hip had become unbearable.

“He came to us and said, ‘I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t do anything, it hurts so bad,’” says Garrett’s mother, Katie McPherson, of Prosper, TX. At that point, Garrett took six months off from his favorite hobby – sports – and started a schedule of physical therapy and travelling to different orthopedic physicians.

Across town, Henry Ellis, M.D., a UT Southwestern doctor practicing at the Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy, read the referral from a colleague.

Garrett’s athletic activity, combined with his complaints, made me suspicious of a few sports-related injuries to the hip that I commonly treat. I thought that he would certainly be someone I would like to review,”

says Dr. Ellis.

Soon, Garrett and his mother were in Dr. Ellis’ office. “Dr. Ellis knew the problem as soon as he started moving Garrett’s legs around,” says Katie. The diagnosis was clear – a hip labral tear that would require surgery to repair.

"Garrett clearly had the pain very consistent with a labral tear. He was unable to play baseball anymore because of his hip pain, so I thought it certainly warranted further investigation to see how I could help him.” says Dr. Ellis.

During surgery, Dr. Ellis worked on repairing a large labral tear. The operation went seamlessly. Throughout Garrett’s recovery, Dr. Ellis acted as a coach to encourage him to continue physical therapy and stick to the recovery protocol. It’s clear Garrett took the encouragement to heart. “Listen to Dr. Ellis,” Garrett says, “He knows what he’s talking about.”

Today, Garrett is back in the game, playing on the Prosper Eagles 14U team. Garrett’s goals are to play Major League Baseball and to become an orthopedic surgeon, just like Dr. Ellis.

“I can’t wait to see him play,” says Dr. Ellis. 

Sharp Rise in Overuse Injuries

The Sports Medicine Department at Children's reports that two factors have greatly contributed to the sharp rise in overuse injuries in young athletes.

1. Increased Competition. The escalation in youth involvement in competitive sports has contributed to greater overuse, stress and repetitive movement injuries. "It’s very important to address these overuse injuries early on in their symptoms so as to avoid needing surgery,” recommends Dr. Ellis.

2. Early Specialization in One Sport. The current trend toward early specialization in one sport,  limits training, practice and focus to one sport resulting in young athletes increasing stress on specific joints and limiting a well-rounded approach. "Variation among sports is important, particularly in increasing skills and decreasing injuries. This is becoming more obvious to us in the  pedicatric sports medicine world,” says Dr. Ellis.

Parents should be aware of these risks as they guide their child’s athletic pursuits. “I think the best thing we can do is to try to educate patients, families, coaches and pediatricians in order to try to minimize the intensity of sports for our very young children,” says Dr. Ellis.