Stress Fracture Of The Hip

What is a stress fracture?

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During running and other high impact activities, the hip joint absorbs some of the highest forces in the body. Repeated high impact activities and overuse can result in a stress fracture of the hip. A stress fracture is a break in the bone that occurs when minor injuries to the bone build up beyond the capacity of the bone to repair itself. Stress fractures of the hip are critical to diagnose and treat quickly because without treatment, they can lead to severe damage to the hip joint, even in young athletes.

What symptoms do stress fractures cause?

Stress fractures of the hip cause pain in the groin or front of the hip that is activity related. Most people with stress fractures will have pain when running that goes away with rest. If the pain is ignored and the stress fracture worsens, pain may become constant. Runners, women, and people with low body mass index (BMI) are typically considered at highest risk for stress fractures, but anyone who has a rapid increase in activity is at risk.

How are stress fractures diagnosed?

Your physician may have concern for a stress fracture based on your symptoms and examination, but imaging is important to verify the diagnosis. A stress fracture may be seen on x-ray, but in many cases, x-rays are not detailed enough to pick up the subtle fracture. If x-rays are normal, an MRI or bone scan is a more accurate way of diagnosing a stress fracture. The area where stress fractures of the hip occur is called the femoral neck; this is the connector between the hip joint and the femur (the thigh bone).

What is the treatment for a stress fracture?

The treatment of stress fractures in the hip is dependent on the severity of the fracture. In mild cases, the athlete is treated with crutches and activity modification until symptoms resolve. In severe cases where the fracture area is large or symptoms do not respond to rest, surgery to stabilize the fracture may be required. If a stress fracture goes unrecognized and the individual continues to stay active, the stress fracture can worsen, leading to a complete break. This can have serious consequences and requires urgent surgery; therefore it is important to recognize a stress fracture early to prevent this from happening.

Another risk factor for stress fracture is poor nutrition and inadequate energy intake to support a patient’s training program, so many patients with stress fractures benefit from analysis of their diet as well as their exercise regimen.