Hip cartilage is newest achilles heel for golfers

December 01, 2003

CHICAGO - Shoulders, elbows and wrists aren't the only vulnerable joints for golfers. Add hips to the list, specifically injury to the labrum cartilage, a condition often diagnosed as arthritis or muscle strain.

"Ten years ago, labral tears were infrequently diagnosed," said Derek R. Armfield, M.D., assistant professor in the division of musculoskeletal radiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). "The ability to detect labral injuries using magnetic resonance imaging has increased significantly in the last 10 years. At the same time, arthroscopic interventions have been developed to treat these injuries without subjecting the patient to major surgery."

Dr. Armfield and colleagues studied eight professional golfers suffering from hip pain who underwent a physical examination, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and subsequent hip arthroscopy. He presented his findings today at the 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The MR images demonstrated injuries to each patient's labrum, the ligament-like cartilage that contains nerves and lines the socket of the hip. It is believed that these tears can damage the adjacent cartilage and may lead to arthritis. Labral abnormalities included tears and detachments, and were highly correlated with abnormal results on arthroscopy exams, making MR imaging a good first step for diagnosing hip pain, Dr. Armfield said. All eight professional golfers were successfully treated with arthroscopic surgery.

"In the past, patients with hip pain were often diagnosed with arthritis, and the only treatment option offered was a total hip replacement somewhere down the road," said one of the study's co-authors, Douglas D. Robertson, M.D., Ph.D. "Today, patients living with hip pain can not only be diagnosed and treated, they also can return to their previous level of activity."

Chronic pain is common in golfers at all playing levels, Dr. Armfield said. According to a study of German golfers published in the June 2003 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, professional golfers average three injuries from the sport and amateurs average two.

"This is a wake-up call that hip injuries are not uncommon for golfers and hip pain should not be ignored," Dr. Robertson said.

Additional authors of the study being presented are Jeffrey D. Towers, M.D., Hal D. Martin, M.D., Scott M. Lephart, Ph.D., and Marc J. Philippon, M.D.
RSNA is an association of more than 35,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists and related scientists committed to promoting excellence in radiology through education and by fostering research, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill.

Note: Copies of 2003 RSNA news releases and electronic images will be available online at www.rsna.org/press03 beginning Monday, Dec. 1.

Editor's note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the printed abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA newsroom at 312-949-3233.

Radiological Society of North America

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