When most people think of a hip injury, they immediately associate it with elderly individuals. Muscles are weaker and bones are more fragile, which leads to falling and hip injury. While older people and those with extra weight do tend to suffer more from hip injuries, hip pain can just as easily affect people of all ages and body sizes.
Athletes and other people who participate in physical activities are at a much higher risk of hip injury compared to older individuals. Sports inevitably cause your body to contort into non-ideal positions or lead to overextending. Falls, bends and other improper muscle and tissue placement result in serious injuries that all contribute to hip pain. Additionally, athletes that overuse the hip joints and muscles may also experience increased discomfort and pain due to overuse and stimulation.
Accepting that you have a hip injury right away is your best course of action. If left untreated, hip injuries can easily lead to debilitating pain, loss of hip function or permanent damage that can end any athletic career.
This article contains a list of the eight most common hip injuries that relate to athletic injuries. If you experience any of the symptoms discussed below, seek medical attention from a hip specialist immediately to prevent further injury.
- Labral tear
- Iliopsoas impingement and snapping hip
- Femoroacetabular impingement
- Traumatic subluxation and dislocation
- Stress fracture
- Muscle strain
- Osteitis pubis
Let’s talk a closer look at each one of these, focusing on some of the more common causes and symptoms.
The labrum is a rim of cartilage that reinforces a ball and socket joint, specifically the ones found in your shoulders and hips. This cartilage protects the two bones from grinding against one another and holds the two together. It allows them to move smoothly and together with as little pain as possible. Therefore, a labral tear occurs when you tear or weaken the labrum. The ball and socket in your hip may dislodge or disconnect from each other. In some instances, labral tears result in a pinched piece of tissue that gets lodged inside the joint.
Symptoms of a labral tear typically include a sharp pain located in the groin, thigh or leg area. You may notice some stiffness or a popping feeling that results in decreased movement. You may also notice an increase in pain in the hip or groin after extended periods of standing, sitting or walking.
The most common cause for a labral tear is overuse of the hip muscle. Sports that tend to focus more on running or sudden twisting and pivoting motions can quickly lead to joint wear and tear. Injury from a contact sport can also lead to a tear.
Iliopsoas Impingement and Snapping Hip
If you feel a sort of snapping or popping sensation in your hip as you walk, sit, stand or swing your leg, then you most likely suffer from iliopsoas impingement or snapping hip syndrome. The iliopsoas, also known as a hip flexor, connects your spine with your femur. It runs along the front of the hip and allows you to walk, sit and rotate your hip laterally. In some instances, the muscles and tendons associated with the iliopsoas become tight and stiff, creating a snapping sensation as the tendon “snaps” over the labrum.
On its own, an iliopsoas impingement is not a serious risk at first. It may be more of an annoying sensation rather than a painful one. However, if left unchecked, it can lead to a labral tear due to unnecessary rubbing against the labrum.
The primary symptom of an iliopsoas impingement is a snapping sensation in the hip area as you move or force the tendon to change positions.
The main cause for iliopsoas impingement is participating in rigorous activities without properly stretching. The muscles tense during strenuous movement and tighten the tendons. Repeated bending and overextending, specifically with dancers, can cause iliopsoas impingement.
Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found throughout the body. They help to reduce friction between muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Bursitis is the inflammation of these sacs, which prevents them from effectively reducing any rubbing and friction between the muscles and bones. Without the bursae, your bones will rub against the muscles and tendons, exposing nerves and causing deep pain. The two most common areas of the hips for bursitis are trochanteric bursitis, located along the outer portion of the hip, and the iliopsoas bursitis, located near the groin.
Typical symptoms of bursitis are hip pain and stiffness that become progressively worse through continued movement or repetitive actions. You will feel pain when pressing directly on the hip or groin, when lying down, walking up and down stairs or rising from a sitting position.
Sports that require prolonged and extreme pressure on the hip joint are the biggest cause of bursitis. Bursitis has a higher chance of occurring in instances where you apply great pressure on the hip but change direction or stop suddenly. Participants in soccer, football, hockey and other similar sports are at a higher risk.
Femoroacetabular impingement occurs when a bone spur, or osteophyte, materializes around the ball and socket joint. Osteophytes are benign, bony outgrowths that form from bone rubbing against bone. When the bones rub against one another, they lose some of their structure. The body attempts to compensate for the missing bone by creating a new bone from the existing one. When the bone spur forms, any movement causes it to rub across the other bone, muscle or tendons. If left unchecked, it can tear the labrum or damage other parts.
Symptoms of a bone spur vary depending on its location in the hip. For some people, it forms in a location that causes very little damage and no pain. For others, the pain can be very intense, and it can restrict your leg movement.
One of the most typical causes of femoroacetabular impingement is the onset of osteoarthritis. Not having proper posture while playing sports can cause tension and rubbing in the ball and socket joint. If you’ve had a broken bone in the area around the hip, your body might attempt to repair the damage with a bone spur.
Traumatic Subluxation and Dislocation
Of all the injuries mentioned in this article, traumatic subluxation and dislocation is the most serious injury that can lead to long-term side-effects. Hip traumatic subluxation and dislocation happen when an injury forces the femur to dislocate or shift away from the pelvic bone. Blunt force trauma, such as those commonly associated with football and hockey, pushes the femur away from the joint.
For some athletes, the dislocation causes long-term damage to nearby nerves, blood vessels and ligaments. If diagnosed, the doctor might recommend surgery to fix the area. Depending on the severity of the injury, you might need physical therapy, prolonged rest and pain medications.
Symptoms for traumatic hip subluxation and dislocation are similar to dislocations of other joints. You will notice increasing pain in the afflicted joint. It may begin to swell or bruise over time. In some instances, you will lose the ability to move the joint entirely and notice a visible deformity of the joint area.
Physical trauma that pushes against the ball and socket joint can force it out of the socket. Contact sports and falls are common culprits for this injury with athletes. A dislocation is more likely to occur if the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint have weakened.
Stress fractures associated with the hip are usually a result of the pelvic bone. Instead, the fractures are more common along the top of the femur bone. Stress fractures are hairline cracks along the bone. If left unattended, the fracture can grow and become more severe. If found early on, the best course of action is to keep the afflicted leg immobilized until fully healed.
With a stress fracture, you may feel pain around the groin area when standing and moving, resulting in a limp. Performing strenuous activities, such as running, climbing stairs or extensive cleaning, can lead to sharp, crippling pain, causing you to stop the task immediately.
Long-distance running and other running intensive sports are the most common culprits for stress fractures. The repetitive stress on the hip and femur leads to compression and microfractures on the bone. Athletes who suffer from nutritional deficiencies or other eating disorders have a higher risk.
Muscle strains are tearing or overstretching of the affected muscle. Also referred to as a pulled muscle, muscle strains have three different categorizations depending on the severity of the tear.
- Grade 1 — The joint functions normally but suffers from mild overstretching or microscopic tears. The resulting pain is mild.
- Grade 2 — The joint does not function as expected and can lead to the hip occasionally giving out while walking and standing. The muscle suffers from moderate overstretching and tears with a noticeable sharp pain.
- Grade 3 — The joint is completely torn and unable to perform even basic functions. The hip can no longer support weight of any kind.
Unless you suffered from a traumatic accident, most muscle strains begin small and gradually worsen when left unchecked. A grade 1 muscle strain can easily transition to a grade 2 or grade 3 from the smallest of accidents. Continuous usage of the hip muscle makes the microscopic tears grow in size until the muscle is no longer useful.
If you think you suffer from a muscle strain, seek medical attention as soon as possible before symptoms worsen. In some circumstances, the strain is mild and does not require medical attention. However, you should focus on resting and refraining from strenuous hip movement until fully healed.
With a muscle strain, you may notice an assortment of symptoms. Typically, you will experience hip pain, tenderness and weakness. Walking will be difficult to perform. Your hip can swell, become inflamed or show signs of bruising. Your hip muscles may spasm with or without moving, even in a resting position. In the most severe instances, a muscle strain will prevent you from standing and show signs of muscle deformity.
The simplest accident can cause muscle strain. The most common culprits are exercising and performing physical activities while fatigued. Your body cannot perform the necessary movements effectively, and you push yourself harder to complete the task. This overexertion can lead to overuse or improper use of the muscle. Hip strains are most commonly found in sports that use repetitive hip motions, such as cycling, swimming, running and baseball.
The pubic symphysis is a small, thin joint that connects the two major pelvic bones at the front of the pelvis. The pubic symphysis has minimal movements associated with it. Its main function is to keep the bones connected. Osteitis pubis is the inflammation of this joint due to stress of the muscles surrounding it.
Osteitis pubis symptoms share similar symptoms to those found with groin pain or strain. These should not be confused as the treatments and severity of each are different. With osteitis pubis, you’ll feel pain over the front and center of the pelvis. In some instances, you may feel more discomfort on one side more than the other. You may exhibit signs of hip weakness and walk with a limp.
Osteitis pubis occurs from the repetitive pulling of muscles over the front of the hip joint. Athletes who partake in long-distance running, soccer players and other sports where long strides are common. Taking long strides over an extended period can cause the muscle and joint to overextend.
Mufaddal Gombera, MD Can Help
Hip injuries should not be taken lightly. For some of the above injuries, taking the time to rest and apply hot and cold compresses is enough to heal the affected area. Then, if pain persists for longer than a week, you should seek help from a medical professional.
That being said, you should never dismiss the pain associated with a hip injury and continue playing sports or participating in strenuous activities. Most of these diagnoses can and will lead to more severe and permanent damage. If you suspect that you may suffer from any of the above symptoms, you should consult with a hip specialist for the best course of action.
Fortunately, Mufaddal Gombera, MD provides orthopedic services to residents of the Houston, TX areas. If you suffer from hip pain of any type, Dr. Gombera can find the problem and offer you the best solutions to relieve the symptoms. Call now at 713-794-3457 or schedule an appointment online.