Ask Dr. Skendzel: What is a hip impingement, and can I prevent it?

When is groin or hip pain a symptom of a joint injury called a hip impingement? Dr. Skendzel explains what hip impingement is, and how it is treated.

Hip pain. No one wants it. Sometimes it comes on gradually, and sometimes an impact or a deep flexing of the joint brings on sudden pain. When could pain in your hip or groin be a symptom of a condition called hip impingement?  

Hip and knee sub-specialty surgeon Dr. Skendzel explains that hip impingement is a condition caused when a person is born with too much bone on the femur or on the cup that holds the femur.

“This condition isn’t something you can prevent,” says Dr. Skendzel. “It’s almost always something you are born with—but it’s important to point out that many people with this excess bone in the hip joint are asymptomatic. Just because a person has this deformity doesn’t mean that they have hip problems. Hip impingement can show up on an x-ray for a patient where the condition isn’t bothering them at all. It doesn’t require surgery unless something happens to injure the joint and cause pain.”

Typically, pain caused by hip impingement is triggered by an injury to the joint. “In the patients I see,” explains Dr. Skendzel, “there’s usually an incident that causes an issue with hip joint motion. These issues can crop up in the course of active sports; once, a patient tore her labrum in a yoga class stretch. The injury happens when the fibrocartilaginous material cushioning the bones in the hip joint, called the labrum, gets caught between the femur and the cup and is torn. That’s what’s painful.”

In the past, imaging technology could not detect labral tears. Even when they were diagnosed, treatment involved a very invasive surgical procedure. Advancements in technology over the last 10 years, plus improved awareness around this injury, have significantly improved both diagnosis and treatment.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, landmark research was published in Switzerland indicating that hip impingement conditions could be a cause of arthritis if left untreated,” explains Dr. Skendzel. “This research focused attention on hip impingement. Imaging improved, and arthroscopic techniques got good enough where we could repair these hip problems with minimally invasive procedures.”

Today, labral repair surgery is able to repair the tear and shave off the bone so that the injury won’t recur. “Shaving off the bone is just as important as repairing the tear,” notes Dr. Skendzel. “If you don’t correct the impingement, it’s just going to happen again.”

Although cases of asymptomatic hip impingement condition don’t require medical treatment, persistent groin or hip pain should prompt a consultation with an orthopedic hip sub-specialist. If a labral tear is the problem, prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to maximize your recovery.

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From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Jack Skendzel, M.D.

    “An active lifestyle requires superior physical function, and I understand that my patients have exceptionally high standards for their performance and joint health. My goal is to return patients to optimal function so that they can continue to perform and master their personal athletic goals.”

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