Pro golfers more likely to have 1 ‘egg-shaped’ hip

New research finds that professional golfers are more likely than the rest of us to have differently shaped right and left hips.

The research team has published two papers (available here and here) in a special Olympic golf themed issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The team originally set out to investigate hip problems in golfers, and were surprised to find that almost a fifth of European professional players reported hip pain.

Further investigation found the pain appears to be related to the shape of the ball of their hips. Elite golfers were four times more likely to have an egg-shaped right hip (called cam morphology) compared to their left. These findings are unique to professional golfers; this pattern is not observed in the general population.

The presence of cam morphology reduces the range of hip rotation, a movement required to generate power in the golf swing. The researchers found that golfers whose hips are more “egg-shaped” were more likely to experience pain than those who have rounder “ball-shaped” hips.

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“Our findings have brought up new questions to be answered. What remains to be established is whether professional golfers develop these shapes because the way they are using their hips or whether players with these hip shapes are more likely to become professional,” says Edward Dickenson of the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School.

“Golf is one of the most popular global sports with 57 million participants worldwide and four million in the UK,” says study leader Damian Griffin. “This new finding of asymmetry between the hips may explain differential rates of pain reported between the left and right hips in golfers. Beyond golf, it helps us to understand why and how hip pain due to femoroacetabular impingement syndrome develops in young active people.”

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The data for the study came from the Scottish Hydro Challenge, a European Challenge Tour event in Aviemore, Scotland in 2015. For the first time ever a portable MRI scanner was taken to a golfing event. The tournaments players were asked to complete a health questionnaire, be examined by Dickenson, and have an MRI scan of their hips. In total 55 players volunteered to undergo an MRI scan.

Cam morphology has been identified as a cause of femoroacetabular impingement syndrome, a condition that causes hip pain in young and active people. Griffin and his team have been researching this problem for many years, and he leads the FASHIoN trial, an international study to test keyhole surgery for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. Cam morphology and femoroacetabular impingement syndrome cause hip pain in many people, and are also associated with hip osteoarthritis later in life.

In the new study, cam morphology was found in 16 percent of right hips (the rear hip during a swing in a right handed player) and 4 percent of left hips (the front hip during the swing in a right handed player) in professional golfers. Golfers’ hip joints rotate in different directions and at different speeds during the golf swing. These findings of different shapes between hips go some way to explain differential rates of pain between the left and right hips in golfers.

Andrew Murray, specialist sports doctor for the European golf tour says: “Overall, we know golf can provide considerable health benefits, with likely improved longevity, and better physical and mental health. But golf puts huge forces through the hips every time a player swings the club.”

The European Tour Performance Institute, Orthopaedic Research UK, and the Royal College of Radiologists supported the work.

Source: University of Warwick

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