Saving Careers, One Hip at a Time

A Manhattan Surgeon Has Come to Many Athletes' Rescue With His Mastery of the Troublesome Joint

The Wall Street Journal—October 25, 2011

When he won the Vezina Trophy in June as the NHL's best goaltender, the Boston Bruins' Tim Thomas confessed that, after suffering a hip injury and undergoing arthroscopic surgery in 2010, he was unsure whether he'd ever return to that same stellar level of play. So he thanked Dr. Bryan Kelly "for doing the hip surgery, and doing such a fantastic job."

Thomas's speech was perhaps the most wide-reaching acknowledgment of a recent paradigm shift in sports medicine—and Kelly's role in that shift. The co-director for the Center for Hip Preservation at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan, Kelly has operated on more than 100 professional athletes over the last decade, joining a select few surgeons who have made their reputations by mastering an advanced form of hip arthroscopy.

Kelly's patient list includes a handful of high-profile athletes whose careers he has salvaged or enhanced, among them Thomas, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. In January, Kelly repaired a torn labrum in Umenyiora's left hip. 

By making smaller incisions and working around muscle tissue, Kelly and other surgeons could be more precise when treating an injury or problem. And with three-dimensional computer analysis now at their disposal, surgeons can map out the entire procedure before they begin.

As the femoral head grinds against the socket, it can shred the labrum (the rim of cartilage around the joint), tug on tendons, and restrict a person's ability to rotate his or her hips. But the newer techniques allow surgeons to shave away bone and stitch up tissue "from the inside out," as Kelly put it. He operated on Jets guard Brandon Moore in February, for instance, trimming away excess bone from Moore's right hip and repairing his labrum.

In a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Kelly and other HSS researchers found that, from 1997 to 2006, only 3.1% of all injuries suffered by NFL players were hip-related. Kelly, though, regards the hip as "the center of the universe" and said he expects to treat more athletes from various sports who have sustained compensatory injuries borne of hip impingement.

Read the full story at wsj.com.

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