A femoroacetabular impingement or FAI is a medical term that refers to a wound resulting from hip bones that do not snugly fit together and cause friction at the contact points which eventually results in long-term damage to the joint. Specifically, the top of the largest leg bone (femora) is restricted in some way from rotating and moving around normally and this causes a wound to the hip bone socket, known by its medical term as the acetabular socket.
FAI is somewhat unique among hip wounds because few symptoms present themselves at the initial stage of the damage and are only usually made known after several years. Many people only begin to realize that they may have FAI when their hip or groin starts to feel stiff, achy, and inflexible.
Over time, the friction involved with rotating and moving around the femur bone and its hip bone socket starts to wound the soft cartilage on the top of the leg bone. Other damage sustained by an FAI injury is when the cartilage inside the socket itself becomes worn down and inflamed. Advanced cases of FAI are considered a form of arthritis in the hip area.
While anyone with an improperly fitting femur and hip bone socket can eventually develop FAI, the condition is more prevalent amongst career sports players due to the years of strain and pressure they put on rotating and moving the hip joint that connects to the biggest leg bone.
Doctors believe that anyone can develop an FAI injury if the top of their large leg bone and/or hip socket is misshapen in some way. Uniquely, men tend to develop a category of FAI injuries known as a “Cam” wound in which the top of the femoral bone is too large and thus grinds against the hip bone socket. Women tend to develop the “Pincer” form of FAI wounds, caused by too much tissue on the hip bone socket. Overall, most FAI injuries involve both the “Cam” and “Pincer” form of the ailment.
FAI wounds are more prevalent among people who spend a lot of time on their feet. A number of vigorous activities, including golf, hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, tennis, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and rowing can make the condition worse but only if an underlying malformation of either the femur bone or hip bone socket already exists.
Because the wound takes years to make itself known, many individuals with an FAI injury have no noticeable symptoms. Once the ailment has begun to get worse, individuals may realize they’re feeling a number of symptoms, including:
Most cases of FAI must be diagnosed by a doctor and are identified by performing special range of motion scans to determine the source of the discomfort experienced in and around the hip. In some cases, an X-ray, CT or MRI scan may be used to identify degradation to the cartilage on top of the femur and inside the hip bone socket.
For people who are not professional sports players, the standard course of treatment of an FAI injury is to take it easy, avoid vigorous physical activity, and perform strengthening and mobility movements. To minimize any tenderness or physical discomfort, taking small amounts of OTC drugs can also be helpful.
For professional sporting types and individuals with more severe cases of FAI, surgical intervention may be required. Arthroscopic surgery is the most common method of fixing damage to the cartilage and removing excess material or reshaping the top of the femur and/or hip joint socket.