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Cartilage Injuries

What are cartilage injuries?

Cartilage is the smooth and nearly friction-free material that lines our joints, providing effortless motion over those countless miles. In the hip, cartilage is the smooth, white surface that lines the ball and socket of the joint. Focal or discrete cartilage loss can result from injury, whereas the general loss of cartilage over the entire joint is considered osteoarthritis.

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What are the symptoms of cartilage injuries?

Cartilage injuries of the hip generally cause pain deep in the groin area, especially during exercise. If there is a focal cartilage injury (in a small specific area), some patients may experience a sense of "catching" when the hip is in certain positions. If there is generalized cartilage loss or osteoarthritis, most people experience deep groin pain and stiffness or loss of motion in the hip.

How are cartilage injuries diagnosed?

Your physician can often diagnose cartilage injuries of the hip based on your symptoms and with an examination of the joint. X-rays are usually also necessary to look for signs of cartilage injury or osteoarthritis, such as bone spurs or irregularities in the joint surface. In younger patients, an MRI may be necessary to fully evaluate the cartilage surface of the joint.

How are cartilage injuries treated?

If symptoms are mild, cartilage injuries can sometimes be successfully treated with rest and anti-inflammatories. If symptoms are severe, treatment with hip arthroscopy and a technique called microfracture may be recommended. This technique creates small perforations in the area of the cartilage injury to stimulate healing. However, once osteoarthritis (joint degeneration) has set in, arthroscopy will not help. Learn more about hip replacement and hip resurfacing at the Center for Joint Care.