12 Common Hip Pain and Injuries in Athletes

Hip pain in athletes is a common cause of discomfort and can be a frustrating problem to treat. In the past, just about any hip pain symptom was attributed to a "muscle strain" type of injury. While this can be a common cause of hip pain in athletes, there are many other causes of hip pain that can sideline a player from action.

Man clutching his hip
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Muscle Strains

Muscle strain injuries of the hip and groin region are common in athletes. Muscles around the hip joint are especially prone to this type of injury because of the tremendous forces that the muscles around the hip can generate. Muscle strains around the hip include groin pulls and hamstring strains.

Hip Bursitis

Inflammation of the bursa over the outside of the hip joint, so-called trochanteric bursitis, can cause pain with hip movement. Treatment of hip bursitis is often effective, but the condition has a problem of coming back and sometimes becoming a persistent problem.

Contusions (Hip Pointer)

A direct blow to the outside of the hip causes an injury to one of the large bones of the pelvis, the ileum. When a contusion is sustained in an athlete over the outside of the hip, the injury is called a hip pointer.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures of the hip, which typically occur in the femur bone, are usually seen in long-distance runners, and much more commonly in women than in men. These injuries can be seen in endurance athletes with deficient nutrition or eating disorders.

Hip Labral Tear

The labrum of the hip is a cuff of thick tissue that surrounds the hip socket. The labrum helps to support the hip joint. When a labral tear of the hip occurs, a piece of this tissue can become pinched in the joint causing pain and catching sensations. Much more has been learned about hip labral tears, to the point that some orthopedic surgeons are concerned these injuries are overdiagnosed. However, patients with specific types of hip labral tears can find improvement with treatment of this condition.

Femoroacetabular Impingement

Femoroacetablar impingement, often referred to as FAI, is a condition where a bone spur may form along the edge of the ball-and-socket hip joint. This can cause loss of mobility of the joint and damage to soft tissues including the labrum. FAI is thought by many surgeons to be a precursor to arthritis of the hip joint.

Osteitis Pubis

Osteitis pubis is thought to be due to the repetitive pull of muscles over the front of the hip joint, on the pelvis. Usually, pain is activity related and often seen in runners, soccer players and hockey players. The x-rays may show signs causing concern for infection, but osteitis pubis usually resolves with rest and anti-inflammatory medications.

Sports Hernias

Sports hernias are a problem seen commonly in hockey players, but can be seen in other sports that require repetitive twisting and turning at high speeds. The problem is thought to be due to an imbalance of the strong muscles of the thigh and the relatively weaker muscles of the abdomen.

Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome is a term used to describe a symptom that can occur as a result of one of three distinct hip problems. The first is when the IT band snaps over the outside of the thigh. The second occurs when the deep hip flexor snaps over the front of the hip joint. Finally, tears of the cartilage, or labrum, around the hip socket can cause a snapping sensation.

Traumatic Hip Subluxation & Dislocation

Complete dislocation of the hip joint is a very unusual hip injury—most commonly hip dislocations occur in high-speed car crashes. However, hip subluxations, an injury where the ball of the ball-and-socket hip joint is pushed part of the way out of joint, are being recognized as a possible cause of hip pain in athletes.

Hip Arthritis

Arthritis of the hips is increasingly seen in athletes as the age in which we participate in sports increases. Older athletes can experience joint stiffness and pain as a result of hip arthritis.

Low Back Strain

Low back problems such as strain can often cause pain around the buttock and hips, even without a structural problem in the hip itself.

Evaluating Hip Pain

Evaluation of hip pain in an athlete should begin with a careful history and examination of the patient. By understanding the onset of symptoms, your physician can gather clues as to the possible diagnoses that may be causing your symptoms. Different conditions occur for different reasons, and understanding how symptoms began and have evolved can help guide an understanding of the diagnosis.

A careful examination can help to locate the source of the discomfort. Often hip problems can be difficult to diagnose because the hip joint itself is located deep within the pelvis. Hip joint problems can sometimes be confused for symptoms from problems with a source in the bursa or the lumbar spine. Determining the anatomic source of the discomfort can also be very helpful in guiding the diagnosis.

Diagnostic testing can also be helpful in determining the source of hip pain. X-rays can be very helpful in evaluating the bony anatomy of the hip joint. Other imaging studies include CT scans, MRIs, ultrasound, and other tests that can be used to evaluate different aspects of the hip.

It is critical that the proper diagnosis is obtained, as treatments can be different depending on the specific underlying diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been established, treatment can progress.

A Word From Verywell

Hip pain is a common complaint of athletes in many different sports. Finding the best way to alleviate symptoms requires an understanding of the underlying diagnosis, and then a logical progression of treatments. Work with your physician, who can help evaluate, diagnose, and ultimately treat your hip condition.

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