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Preventing hip problems in young athletes: Ottawa researchers receive prestigious award

A team of researchers from the University of Ottawa (uOttawa), The Ottawa Hospital, Carleton University and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has received a top international orthopaedic award for showing that a certain kind of hip deformity, which develops in teenagers and is associated with physical activity, can cause joint degeneration in early adulthood. Their research has also shown that surgery can relieve pain and improve hip function in some people with this condition.
This is only the second time since 1950 that a Canadian group has won this international prize for orthopaedic research, called the Kappa Delta Award. Two Kappa Delta Awards are presented each year at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, on behalf of the Kappa Delta Foundation and the Orthopaedic Research Society.
“Winning the Kappa Delta award is a tremendous honor,” said team leader Dr. Paul Beaulé, Head of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital. “It shows the huge benefits and potential of collaboration with basic science researchers and other clinicians, spanning biomechanics, kinematics and medical imaging. This research is helping the development of a risk profile so that we can one day provide individuals with both surgical and physical therapy programs to avoid worsening of hip pain and loss of motion and keep their hip healthy.”
In addition to Dr. Beaulé, the team includes Dr. Andrew Speirs and Dr. Hanspeter Frei (from Carleton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Dr. Sasha Carsen (from CHEO and uOttawa) Dr. Kawan Rakhra and Dr. Gerd Melkus (from the Department of Radiology at uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital), Dr. Mario Lamontagne (from the Faculty of Health Sciences at uOttawa), Dr. Geoffrey Ng (formerly at uOttawa, now at Imperial College London) and Dr. George Grammatopoulos (Division or Orthopaedic Surgery at uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital).
Their research focuses on a kind of hip deformity called cam or femoro-acetabular impingement. It is also referred to as the pistol grip deformity because the hip joint looks like the grip of a pistol from some angles). In a series of studies over the last decade, the team showed that:
• 25 percent of healthy males and 5 percent of healthy females (average age of 30) have at least one hip with this deformity.
• Within five years, more than 15 percent of people with the deformity will develop hip pain, compared to less than 3 percent of people with normal hips.
• The deformity develops during adolescence and is associated with the level of physical activity. However, other factors also play a role.
• The damage seems to start in the bone and then spread to the cartilage.
• Surgery can relieve pain and improve hip function in some people with this deformity.
“One of the next phases of our research is to better understand what types of activities increase the risk of developing this condition,” said Dr. Beaulé. “We also need to look at exercise programs that truly affect how the hip moves and how it may affect the arthritic process. Lastly, we need to develop the biomarkers, so we can have early detection before arthritic hip pain and cartilage damage begin, and intervene sooner.”
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