Austin Groth is a 21 year old rising senior at Buena Vista University and collegiate track and field athlete who competes in the 100 and 400 Hurdles. He injured his hip in his sophomore year and the increasing pain was threatening his athletic career. He sought medical attention and was diagnosed with a hip labral tear, and surgery was recommended.
What is a labrum? The hip is a ball and socket joint with the cup like acetabulum of the hip forming the socket, and the head of the femur forming the ball. The labrum is a gasket like fibrocartilage lip around the edge of socket, helping to hold the head of the femur in place through its wide range of motion, stabilizing the joint. Austin’s injury is really very typical for a hurdler. In things like gymnastics and dance though you’re stretching the limits of your hip’s range of motion, the movements are more fluid and not as jarring. But in situations where range of motion is pushed repetitively in a jarring fashion, labral tears are very common.
Unfortunately, the most common treatment for these tears is surgery, like was suggested for Austin. While hip labral tear surgery is done arthroscopically today, don’t let that lull you into thinking it’s a minor procedure. The arthroscopic repair requires 60-80 pounds of traction to pull the femur out of the socket enough to get the camera and tools inserted, and this causes the large femoral nerves that supply the quadriceps muscle to lose the ability to conduct signals. Because of this, this nerve needs to be carefully monitored to prevent permanent nerve damage. In addition, the labral “repair” often involves removing torn sections of the labrum instead of repairing them, leaving the joint unstable. Despite the traumatic nature of the surgery, and its prolonged recovery time, recent studies have shown that there is no clear evidence that it actually works.
Austin was faced with big choices at a young age as the surgery would have left him unable to hurdle. In order to save his athletic career, Austin chose to avoid Hip Labrum Surgery, and chose to heal his labral tear instead. Under the excellent care of Dr. Jackson of Harborview Medical in Des Moines, Iowa, Austin was treated with precise image guided injections using the Regenexx SCP procedure, which uses a very specialized, proprietary form of PRP. Austin not only got back to hurdling, he finished out that year with setting personal bests, season bests and a conference title!
The upshot? We’re really happy Austin’s doing so well. We’re also really thankful that his desire to continue his athletic career kept him from making a decision that likely would have caused him problems for the rest of his life. Labrums don’t grow back – that’s why we try to heal them rather than cut pieces of them out!