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Special Segment: Help for People Plagued by Hip Pain

December 31, 2009 8:27:32 PM PST
Doctors often misdiagnose the problem because of something that's hard to see on X-ray scans.Pro athletes are shining a light on a pain problem that impacts everyone from all-stars to weekend warriors.

On the court, Costen Irons is king. He's a stand-out athlete, but his star power was tarnished by 15 years of chronic hip and groin pain.

"I'd play through the pain, but the rest of my life, I was always looking, where can I sit down?" Irons said.

He had surgery on his groin, but the pain persisted.

"I went back to the surgeon and he said, 'you're crazy, this is great and you shouldn't have any pain.'"

Dr. Allston Stubbs, orthopedic surgeon, Wake Forest Univ.

"A lot of our patients have had symptoms for many years. They many times have had other diagnoses for their pain," said Dr. Allston Stubbs, orthopedic surgeon, Wake Forest University.

The answer for many is a hip labral tear. The cartilage that seals and stabilizes the hip joint breaks away and gets pinched in the socket.

"The analogy I often use is the thorn in the lion's paw," Stubbs said.

The area is buried beneath muscles, tendons and ligaments deep inside the body, so it's often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Many times it leads to unnecessary surgery.

"In the female population, they may have had hysterectomies," Stubbs said.

Dr. Stubbs makes two dime-sized incisions and shaves the bone and socket so they fit together without pinching. He reattaches the cartilage with stitches that promote new bone growth. This year, the surgery helped Yankee's star Alex Rodriguez and Philadelphia Phillie Chase Utley.

Costen is grateful he finally found a solution to his pain.

"As soon as I had the surgery, there were movements I could do," Costen said.

He may never make it to the pros, but this elementary school gym teacher is just happy to do his job pain-free.

The surgery is reserved for those who don't improve with physical therapy and injections. Most people can leave the hospital the same day as the procedure, but patients are often on crutches for about a month afterward.


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