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Radiographers could have a pivotal role to play in detecting hip damage in young men, who may not have any symptoms.
Hip impingement can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and may be a risk factor for osteoarthritis (OA), according to new research published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
OA in the hip is a major cause of pain and disability, so doctors and patients will both benefit from being made aware of any risk factors before its onset.
The existence of a deformity such as femoracetabular impingement is a particular risk factor for asymptomatic young men, particularly athletes, who may sometimes experience groin pain as a symptom.
This observation is consistent with a study published in the Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research journal by the same university in July.
The findings suggested that engaging in vigorous sports activities during childhood and adolescence can cause young athletes to develop an abnormal femur, resulting in a deformed hip and reduced rotation, accompanied by pain.
Dr Stephan Reichenbach, of the University of Bern, who conducted the MRI study, said: "Given that cam-type deformities are common in young asymptomatic males, we examined whether the deformities were associated with early signs of MRI detected hip damage."
Researcher studied a total of 244 males, none of whom reported hip pain. They each received an MRI on one hip and were examined for cam-type deformities, labral lesions and signs of cartilage damage.
A total of 67 cam-type deformities were detected, and were more commonly found in men with a higher body mass index, who suffered from decreased internal rotation.
Labral lesions were detected in 85 per cent of participants with cam-type deformaties, while impingement pits were observed in just 30 per cent.
Dr Reichenbach noted that this was the first population-based MRI study that confirmed deformity as a potential risk factor for damage. "Longer-term studies are needed to determine if cam-type deformity increases risk of developing hip OA," he added.
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