Preventing arthritis in young athletes

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Most people don't have to worry about arthritis until they are 50+ years old. But with high-impact sports, more young people are finding out that it could affect them much earlier than they ever imagined.

16-year-old McKenzie Wright is proud to call herself a Barbe Bluebelle.  As part of this precision dance line, she pushed her body to the limit and during one performance last fall, it was just too much.  "I did a jump split," says McKenzie, "which we do a lot of those, and it just tore in my hip and I couldn't get off the field."

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital orthopedist, Dr. Brett Cascio told McKenzie that she had torn her hip labrum - a common, yet under-diagnosed injury in athletes.  "Extensive flexion of the hip is the main problem that causes tearing of the labrum," says Dr. Cascio.

With confirmation of the hip labrum tear, McKenzie was faced with a tough decision.  "Dr. Cascio said to never dance again or have surgery," says McKenzie.

Without the surgery, McKenzie would be much more prone to arthritis if she stayed physically active. With a passion for dancing, she knew she didn't want to be on the sidelines next season, so she opted to have the arthroscopic procedure.  "We work on the rim of the bone," says Dr. Cascio, "if there's any extra bone, we trim it down and we repair the labrum with anchors and then we look at the femural head and see how 'out of round' it is and we can reshape the femural head so that you have more degrees of freedom before you impinge on your labrum."

The physical therapy regimen that was prescribed for McKenzie has been tough. It started the day she had the surgery in April and has lasted for the past three months. She's hoping that this will be enough to get her back in line with her fellow Bluebelles this year.  "I hope that I can dance again and go full out," says McKenzie.

With the intense kicks and jumps that come along with dance line - there's a chance that McKenzie might have to make another decision down the road if the pain comes back.  "She has to decide - is it worth the risk of arthritis later or would she rather play the sports right now and do the dancing she wants to do," says Dr. Cascio.

For now, McKenzie's choice is to dance again - something that she's looking forward to doing for the first time since October.

*Dr. Cascio is the first orthopedist in Louisiana to perform this arthroscopic hip labrum procedure.  If hip pain has taken you out of the game, join him next Tuesday at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for a free seminar on treatment options. Reservations are required, just call 494-2936 to get your seat.