In the first part of the 2-part article on femoro-acetabular impingement (FAI), chiropractor, Dr. Alexander Jimenez discussed FAI and how it can lead to insidious onset abdominal pain and damage the hip joint labrum, leading to early arthritic changes. Given that conservative management generally fails in young athletes and needs operation, part two describes the post-operative rehabilitation period required to take an athlete back to full competition.
The post-operative rehabilitation period is highly dependent on the magnitude of pathology and the subsequent procedure; weight-bearing development is consequently variably reported in the literature.
If the labrum is surgically repaired, then protected weight bearing is encouraged to allow the repair site in order to be protected during the early healing phase. Also, avoiding extremes of flexion (beyond 60�) and also internal/external rotation for the initial 4 to 6 weeks is important to safeguard the repaired labrum. Any positions that possibly create an impingement and boost inflammation ought to be prevented. These include:
- Deep squatting
- Prolonged sitting
- Low couch sitting
- Lifting off the ground
- Pivoting on a fixed foot
These positions are more safely tolerated following the six week post-operative period. But on account of the selection of hip flexion limitations imposed in the initial six months, usual activities of daily living are rather restricted, making yield to work and daily chores challenging if not impossible from the first few weeks following surgery. Therefore, the post- surgical patient does have to make substantial lifestyle changes and they need assistance in the first six weeks following surgery.
Special precautions in certain types of FAI processes. Reshaping of the femoral head- neck junction can weaken the rectal neck so particular care must be taken in this post- operative period. Fracture of the femoral neck is an unlikely but potentially serious complication after a reshaping process. The athlete may be allowed to bear full weight, but crutches are needed to avoid twisting movements during the initial four weeks after surgery. High impact pursuits and high torsion moves should be prevented in the first 3 months, as bone grafting requires around three weeks to attain full structural integrity.
Furthermore, if microfracture of this femoral head is also done for femoral head cartilage defects, then the athlete ought to be restricted to partial weight- bearing for two weeks so as to optimize the premature maturation of the fibrocartilaginous healing response.
1. Weight bearing status is dependent on the kind of reshaping procedure, whether the labrum was repaired, and also what the surgeon favors
2. Steer clear of hip flexion beyond 60� in the first 4-6 Weeks
3. Avoid extremes of rotation
Rehabilitation protocols provided in the literature have a tendency to be quite generic in their own advice and at best explain broad transitional phases during the rehab process. They usually describe the transition in weight bearing status, the development of gait through walking into jogging, and give general guidelines as to how to and when to progress activity based on a time dependant strategy.
They then progress describing transitions into twisting and affect actions — usually explained as beginning at 3 weeks following surgery — and generally the guidance is that the speed with which the athlete progresses is variable and might need yet another 1 to 3 months to get full return based on the game. Trainers are usually advised that return to sports after surgical correction of FAI can require 4 to 6 weeks. However it’s critical that progression through rehabilitation phases is driven more by subjective and objective measures during the transition phases. This allows the athlete and therapist to track load (type and quantity) and ascertain whether the joint arrangements are able to withstand changes in load securely.
Wahoff et al (2014) have provided some standards which may be utilized to guide the transition from one point to the next(1). They describe their rationale and supply a complete description of all of the cited tests in their printed clinical comment. Essentially, the exit criteria they offer in each phase are as follows;
So as to advance through the six clarified stages, the athlete may undergo extensive physiotherapy, focusing on hip range of movement exercises, manual therapy and trigger point releases, active stretching, potentially deloaded activities like hydrotherapy or Alta G walking/ running and strong hip rotator and gluteal strengthening exercises. Much of this will be ‘controlled’ and led by the wishes of the surgeon as they will provide the framework on if and what happens concerning loading.
But more direct physiotherapy Interventions have been devised to direct the physiotherapist through the rehabilitation protocol. The Takla-O�Donnell Protocol (TOP) is a validated physiotherapy intervention program which may be utilized to induce the arthroscopically handled FAI patient (Bennel et al)(2).)�This protocol is shown in box 2.
Hip Muscle Control
The focus of the rest of this article Will be to summarize some common yet powerful hip strengthening exercises which may be used to progress the hip muscle control throughout the rehabilitation phases.
Regaining hip muscle power, particularly in the heavy hip external rotator group, is imperative from the FAI recovering athlete. Good muscle endurance and strength in those muscle groups will ensure adequate hip joint compression happens with motion to reduce any shearing effect between the head of femur and acetabulum(3). The muscle groups needing focus are (see figure 5):
- Posterior fibres Gluteus Medius (PGMed)
- Gluteus minimus
- Superior and Inferior Gemellus
- Internal and External Obturator
- Quadratus Femoris
There’s plenty of exercises that can be utilized to fortify the hip joint musculature. The chosen ones below are a sample of some effective exercises that can be used throughout the rehabilitation phases. However, the key requirements of the contained exercises include:
1. Performed in neutral stylish places to no more than 60 degrees hip flexion. This range of movement protects the hip joint from any possibly damaging impingement.
2. Minimal rotation of the hip, letting them be used in most stages of the rehabilitation process.
3. Performed isometrically or utilizing little oscillating concentric/eccentric contractions — to contract and hold to maintain the hip joint compacted and stable. This represents how these muscles work in individual function.
In many ways. hip joint labral tears, capsule sprains, cartilage and muscle accidents and bony architectural issues like FAI can all lead to debilitating hip pain. FAI is a real concern for the athlete as the existence of a bone abnormality may lead to a painful hip impingement, damage to the acetabular labrum and premature onset degeneration. FAI’s don’t respond to conservative management. If the athlete suffers debilitating pain that affects competition then the options are either to cease competition all together or have the FAI surgically corrected. Once corrected by the surgeon, regaining complete motion and muscle strength and ultimate game related functional skills will require some time. Hip rotator muscle strengthening must shape the foundation of all handling post-surgical FAI issues.
1. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 9(6); pp 813-826
2. Arthroscopy. 2006;22(12):1304-1311
3. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):20-30.