Lionel Pannunzio PT / SCS
Understanding Femoro-acetabular Impingement (FAI) in Soccer Players
FAI is a pathological hip condition characterized by abnormal contact between the acetabulum ( socket ) and femoral head / neck junction ( ball).
Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) is generally used to describe symptoms pertaining to the ball and socket joint of the hip.
This can occur within the normal physiological range of motion as a result of osseous abnormalities ( bone overgrowth ) described as either CAM or PINCER deformities.
There are 2 types of hip impingement; they may occur alone or together.
1. Pincer-Type Impingement:
This condition affects men and women equally; symptoms often begin early, appearing at any time between 15 to 50 years of age.
In pincer-type impingement, the hip socket (acetabulum), which is usually angled forward, may be angled toward the back.
The overgrown bone or incorrect angle of the socket causes the labrum (a rim of connective tissue around the edge of the hip socket) to be pinched.
Over time, this leads to inflammation and eventually could result in a labrum tear.
2. Cam-Type Impingement
Here the shape of the bone around the head of the femur the ball at the top of the bone in the thigh is misshapen with an overgrown bone formed at the top and front. The nickname “pistol grip” deformity is given to the appearance of the bony overgrowth on x-rays.
This also leads to pain or can cause the labrum to become worn, frayed, or torn.
This condition affects men to women at a ratio of 3 to 1; symptoms often manifest during the teen years and 20s.
Most individuals with FAI experiencing discomfort with hip flexion ( bringing knee up towards the chest) , adduction, and internal rotation.
A recent study found that 87% of teens and adults with hip pain showed evidence of hip impingement on diagnostic images taken of their hip joints.
To have a diagnosis of FAI it is not a sentence to a life of pain. Many patients get better with a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
Surgery is an option when the conservative treatment has failed
That’s why it’s important to assess the person and their goals and not solely base the prognosis on x-rays or MRIs.
FAI diagnosis is obtained through a combination of symptoms + clinical signs + diagnostic imaging
Hip impingement may cause:
Stiffness or deep aching pain in the front or side of the hip or front of the upper thigh while resting.
Sharp, stabbing pain when standing up from a chair, squatting, rising from a squat, running, "cutting," jumping, twisting, pivoting, or making lateral motions.
Hip pain described in a specific location by making a "C" with the thumb and hand and placing it on the fold at the front and side of the hip, known as the "C-sign."
Pain that most often starts gradually, but can also remain after another injury resolves.
Pain that increases with prolonged sitting or forward leaning.
Feeling less flexible at the hips, including a decreased ability to turn your thigh inward on the painful side.
To the physical exam patient with FAI will show:
Positive Hip Impingement Tests.
Several test can help with the diagnosis of FAI , for example “log roll” test where the therapist gently roll your leg in and out, or bend your hip up and in while turning the lower leg out to the side (the "FADDIR" test) to assess your condition.
Diagnostic Imaging ( Xrays ):
Antero-posterior radiograph of the pelvis and a lateral femoral neck view of the symptomatic hip to identify pincer or cam morphologies, and identify other causes of hip pain.
If further diagnosis is needed, your doctor may order diagnostic tests to help identify any joint changes, including x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or diagnostic injections. Hip impingement can occur at the same time as low back, buttock, or pelvic pain, or from conditions such as bursitis or groin strain.
The final diagnosis of hip impingement may take some time, especially when other conditions are present
Treatment of Femoro-Acetabular Impingement - FAI
Exercise-based treatments are recommended for people with hip-related pain. Exercise-based treatment should be at least 3 months duration.
Physical Therapy Interventions:
1. Improve the strength of your hips and trunk.
Strengthening of the hips and trunk can reduce abnormal forces on an already injured joint and help with strategies to move pain-free.
People with FAI will benefit from a comprehensive program that addresses all the imbalances in the hip - pelvis - lumbar area that may be causing the impingement.
A very important point to consider with FAI patients is to select exercises that don't get the hip in the position of the impingement for example dip squat positions most likely will aggravate the condition.
Furthermore, the position of the pelvis is crucial to avoid or decrease the amount of contact between the femur and acetabulum.
Therefore a combination of core + hip strengthening along with postural exercises are necessary in people with FAI.
The goal here is to create stability at the lumbo-pelvis complex to allow a normal movement of the hip
2. Improving hip muscle flexibility and joint mobility
As we mention before restoring some movement back into the hip is very important.
Feeling less flexible at the hips, including a decreased ability to turn your thigh up outwards or inwards on the painful side is very common in patients with FAI.
stretching and mobility exercises must be selected carefully because if patients push too hard into the stretch it may be exacerbate their pains.
3. Improving tolerance of daily activities through activity modification
Analyzing your job and the recreational activities you do to maintaining postures that are healthier for your hip and. Often this involves limiting the amount of bending at the hip to avoid further hip damage.
Tips for stretching with FAI
Warm up with aerobic exercises ( elliptical / treadmill ) .
Don’t force the movement too much, just get to the end and push a tiny bit more
Work on repetitive movements more than pushing hard .
Keep core muscle active throughout the mobilization to avoid excessive strain in lumbar spine
FAI is a problem of the hip joint or its components: the ball or socket of the hip
Treatment of FAI requires a general approach with core and all aspect of the hip included.
Research shows that FAI is a common finding among athletes and soccer players and its only when painful that the FAI becomes a problem.
Conservative treatment with Physical Therapy for 12 weeks is the first line of treatment of this condition. In Adults ( + 40 y/o) surgey need to be considered only when the Physical Therapy has failed because of the Poor to Fair results of the Surgery in the long run
Lionel Pannunzio is a Physical Therapist Certified in Sports Injuries. With more than 20 years of experience helping athletes return to their sports after an injury. He is the Owner of White Bay Sports Physical Therapy and Fitness, conveniently located in the beautiful City of Weston, where he treats Soccer Player, Runners and Athletes of all ages
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