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Common Hip Injuries in Runners

Whether you’re running a marathon, tackling the treadmill, or putting in a few laps around the block, those hips of yours can take quite the pounding. Be ready to run smart by knowing the signs and symptoms of hip problems and doing what you can to keep your stride smooth and steady.


Found in the hips, knees, shoulders and other joints are thin, fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which cushion your bones against the friction of movement. Bursitis occurs when these sacs become inflamed from overuse, arthritis, or infection, leaving you with pain and hindered mobility,

Typical treatment is conservative, namely rest, icing the affected joint, and an anti-inflammatory medication. Worsening or persistent pain may need to be evaluated by a physician to verify the problem and discuss more aggressive treatment options such as physical therapy, injection, or rarely, surgery to drain or remove the inflamed sac. Bursitis tends to recur, but warming up before your run, strengthening your muscles, and getting adequate rest can help prevent this condition.

Hip Dislocation

When joints displace at the point of connection, intense pain, visible deformity and immobility of the affected bones are evident. Proper realignment or reduction is necessary and requires prompt intervention. Reduction is the process of manually maneuvering the joint back into place. Anesthesia may be needed, depending on the severity of the injury and tolerance to the procedure. Hip dislocations can occur from a hard fall or other pounding impact and may injure surrounding tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves.

Depending on the extent of the collateral damage, surgery may be necessary. It’s important to see a physician to confirm the extent of injury and evaluate for fracture through x-ray and/or MRI imaging. Dislocations may reoccur, so rest and immobilization are often indicated to allow for resolution of inflammation and pain. Application of ice (on and off throughout the first few days), followed by hot packs to relax the muscles will help move recovery along. Strengthening exercises can help prevent future dislocations.

Hip Fracture

Obviously, this injury is more serious and debilitating than bursitis or dislocation, and the risk of occurrence rises with age. Prevention is key, and includes adequate nutrition—particularly Vitamin D and calcium; maintaining awareness of obstacles while running, such as uneven surfaces or debris underfoot; and adequate hydration to prevent blood pressure drops. Hip fractures generally require surgical repair, which may include joint replacement, depending on the type and extent of injury.

The most common sign of a hip fracture is external rotation (turning out) of the affected leg, along with groin pain, bruising, and inability to bear weight. Women are more likely to sustain a hip fracture than men due to losses in bone density. Certain medical conditions can also increase risk. Hip fractures and hip surgery are not without complications, some serious; taking preventive measures to prevent this injury cannot be over-emphasized.

Labral Tear

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that helps provide stability for the ball and socket arrangement of the hip joint. Certain activities, including repetitive motions can wear down the labrum, making it more susceptible to tearing. Symptoms of this injury may include pain in the hip and/or groin, limited range of motion, or a “catching” type feeling in the hip.

If you have a labral tear, you likely have other damage to the hip as well. A medical evaluation can determine the presence of fracture or soft tissue injury. Treatment ranges from conservative measures, such as rest and anti-inflammatory medication, to surgery, depending on the damage and accompanying symptoms. Preventive measures include strength and conditioning exercises and avoiding excessive weight load on the hip when in full extension.

Stay on Track

As with any sport, running is risky. However, you can reduce your chance of injury by minding your limitations, increasing your strength and flexibility, and keeping fit from the inside out.

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