Hip Specialists Seeing More Hipsters

Hip pain typically occurs in the aging patient, but Columbia’s physicians who focus on hip injuries and hip preservation are seeing greater numbers of Gen X and millennial patients.

“We’ve seen an explosion of hip injuries in young adults that’s not related to arthritis,” says T. Sean Lynch, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery, who oversees the Center for Athletic Hip Injuries & Hip Preservation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. 

One reason for the increase is a better understanding of hip pain in this younger and athletic population through the use of MRIs and ultrasound for injuries that were previously diagnosed as groin or muscle injuries. Another reason is the growing trend in sports of young people following professional-level training regimens. 

“Many young adult patients with hip problems today trained year-round as teenage athletes–practicing far more hours per day and week than their parents did–with many focusing on a single sport,” says Dr. Lynch, who specializes in the nonoperative and operative treatment of hip and knee disorders in athletes of all levels.

Dr. Lynch says such intense and narrow training increases the potential for major stress on the hips, particularly on the growth plate of the femoral neck. It is hypothesized that the body’s natural reaction is to lay bone on the femoral neck adjacent to growth plates to offload this stress. This can cause a condition called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), which can cause the hip joint to fit like a square peg into a round hole. This incongruent fit can cause injury to the cartilage and the labrum which can lead to pain and, potentially, osteoarthritis. 

Femoroacetabular impingement can occur at any age, but it is typically symptomatic in patients ranging from teenagers to weekend warriors in their 30s and 40s. This is the predominant condition among the patients Columbia orthopedics specialists see.

The first treatment effort typically involves the least invasive measures, including rest, activity modification, and physical therapy to strengthen the core, lower back, and hips. Dr. Lynch has overseen the creation of best practice guidelines for the management of patients with FAI and labral tears. 

Jakub Tatka, MD, a U.S. Ski Team physician, has joined the center. He specializes in hip preservation procedures such as periacetabular osteotomy and surgical hip dislocation.

Appointments can be made by visiting columbiaortho.org/appointments or calling 212-305-4565.