It seems that every year when spring training rolls around, a new injury becomes the highlight of conversation. Last year, it was Curt Shilling’s shoulder and this year it is Alex Rodriguez’s hip. If this keeps up, baseball fans may forgo medical school and go right into an orthopedic residency. A-Rod has now surpassed Bo Jackson for having the most written about hip joint in sports.
The hip is a ball and socket joint. The head of the femur is a ball shaped structure that fits into the acetabulum, a socket in the pelvis. The joint is held together by several ligaments. The labrum is the cartilage that lines the acetabulum and allows smooth movement of the hip.
While allowing the leg an extensive range of motion, this joint is especially vulnerable to traumatic injury. Repeated pounding and twisting seen in most sports that require rapid starts and change in direction account for a majority of hip damage.
Treatment of hip injuries in athletes varies from a conservative approach including rest, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to hip replacement. Arthroscopic surgery has become a minimally invasive approach that often delays or avoids a more radical procedure.
In 1991, Bo Jackson underwent total hip replacement after a fracture. He returned to play major league baseball. Alex Rodriguez recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum.
The common denominator in recovery from all hip surgeries is early rehabilitation often beginning immediately after surgery. Many orthopedic surgeons who treat athletes get their patients on a stationary bicycle two hours after surgery. Non-weight-bearing exercise continues for the first six weeks after surgery while the patient is on crutches. Strengthening exercises follow with hopeful return to running in ten weeks.
Much has changed from Bo Jackson’s “miraculous” return from hip surgery in 1991. These breakthroughs have carried over to non-athletes who can get back to an active lifestyle with minimal downtime.