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What Is Femoroacetabular Impingement?

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Updated October 19, 2011

Question: What Is Femoroacetabular Impingement?
If you haven't heard of femoroacetabular impingement before, you likely will now. Baseball great Alex Rodriquez, also known as A-Rod, has been diagnosed with femoroacetabular impingement and had surgery on March 9, 2009. The surgery can help decrease pain, improve performance and prevent future hip arthritis and a need for hip replacement.

What is femoroacetabular impingement? What are the symptoms, cause, and treatment options for femoroacetabular impingement? How is the condition related to osteoarthritis?

Answer:

Femoroacetabular Impingement Explained

With femoroacetabular impingement, the head of the femur rubs against the socket (acetabulum). There are two types of femoroacetabular impingement -- cam and pincer. With cam impingement, there is a bulge, where the femoral head and neck meet, that rubs against the socket excessively. With pincer impingement, there is a prominent anterior rim of the socket (acetabulum) that blocks normal movement of the femur.

Reportedly, Alex Rodriquez has a misshapen femoral head. How did he get this? Likely, it's a combination of genetics and excessive physical activity that stressed his joints.

Symptoms of Femoroacetabular Impingement

Femoroacetabular impingement mostly affects young adults. If you had femoroacetabular impingement, symptoms might include:

  • intermittent groin or hip pain
  • pain that spreads to the thigh, buttock or lower back
  • pain that typically develops gradually (can be sudden if it follows an injury)
  • pain that intensifies with specific movements
  • sharp, catching or locking hip pain
  • giving way or buckling of the hip

The Bottom Line

Abnormal hip joint movement caused by a misshapen femoral head (ball) or acetabulum (socket) can wear away cartilage and tear the labrum (the cartilage rim of the acetabulum).

Damage to the labrum and cartilage is strongly linked to the development of arthritis, hip osteoarthritis to be precise. The goal of surgery is to correct the shape variations that cause impingement -- and thereby reduce pain and improve hip rotation.

Sources:

A-Rod's Pending Surgery Necessary to Prevent Hip Arthritis. SI.com. Inside Baseball. David Epstein. March 8, 2009.

Surgery for Femoroacetabular Impingement. Damian Griffin. October 1, 2007. NHS National Library for Health.

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