Hip pain misdiagnosis

December 21, 2009 3:15:34 PM PST
Millions of people suffer from hip pain every year, and many are misdiagnosed when they see a doctor. It's all because of a torn piece of cartilage that is hard to see on any kind of scan.

On the basketball 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,'" Irons explained.

Dr. Allston Stubbs says Irons' story is not uncommon.

"A lot of our patients have had symptoms for many years. They, many times, have had other diagnoses for their pain," Stubbs said.

The answer for many -- 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," he said.

The area is buried beneath muscles, tendons and ligaments deep inside the body, so it's often overlooked or misdiagnosed. It's the same injury that sidelined Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Many times it leads to unnecessary surgery.

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

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 Rodriguez and Philadelphia Phillies second baseman 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," he said.

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


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