Hip hip hooray! Hope for young athletes at Women’s College Hospital

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Kelley Lusk has always been a competitive athlete, playing both field hockey and soccer since kindergarten. So it is not hard to imagine her frustration when she began suffering from incapacitating hip pain four years ago at the age of 16.

“I had to stop playing soccer altogether,” recalls Lusk. Even after taking a six-month break from field hockey in 11th grade, her pain did not subside. What’s more, rehabilitation therapy wasn’t working, and she felt her doctors were not listening to her concerns.

Unexpectedly, hope emerged when she began her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. As a player for the university’s Varsity Blues field hockey team, Lusk had access to the top experts in sports medicine and was introduced to the doctor who would finally make the difference.

Dr. Lucas Murnaghan, orthopedic surgeon at Women’s College Hospital, specializes in the injuries of pediatric and young adult athletes. Not only was he able to correctly diagnose Lusk with a torn hip labrum (the soft cartilage around the hip joint), he was also the first to provide her with an alternative to a lifetime of rehab: arthroscopic surgery — a procedure whereby a camera and surgical tools are inserted through a small incision in the body. By means of a camera, surgeons are able to observe and repair injuries.

“We are one of only a few hospitals in Toronto to offer this advanced procedure,” says Dr. Murnaghan. “Kelley was the first to receive this surgery at Women’s College Hospital, and we are excited to offer this innovative procedure as it quickly becomes a new standard of excellence.”

After Lusk’s procedure, she was walking without crutches within two weeks. “I was surprised that I was never really in a lot of pain,” she says, amazed at how quick and easy the recovery was. Due to the tiny incision used in an arthroscopic procedure, there is less trauma to the body, which allows for a shorter hospital stay and a much quicker recovery than the alternative, open surgery.

There are some limitations however. As Dr. Murnaghan cautions: “Not all hip pain is the same, and arthroscopy is not a solution for arthritis or a substitute for hip replacement.” He emphasizes that arthroscopy is focused on younger, more active patients, and is an extremely effective method for addressing subtle soft tissue abnormalities like athletic traumas.

Now that Lusk is free of hip pain she is excited to get back on the field. And not just for the next season of field hockey. “Sports are a big part of my life,” asserts Lusk. “I want to be able to do what I love without pain, and I now have that freedom. I have Dr. Murnaghan and his team at Women’s College Hospital to thank for that.”