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For both amateur and Olympic athletes, it doesn’t get any more difficult than the grueling 10-event, ten-day decathlon, which is synonymous with the title of “Greatest Athlete” at the Olympic Games. Thomas Morreal, 20, is a “decathlete” at Florida International University.
In autumn 2019, hip pain accompanied his training, which included running hurdles, discus and javelin throws, pole vaults and a 1,500 meter run.
“In my first year of college, I had slight hip pain for the first time,” recalls Morreal. “It just got worse over time.”
By joining FIU Athletics with Baptist Health’s Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, Morreal said he was fortunate to have consulted with Lionel E. Lazaro, MD, an orthopedist at the institute.
Dr. Lazaro says the young athlete needed a hip arthroscopy, a surgical procedure that allows doctors to view the hip joint without making a large incision through the skin and other soft tissues. During hip arthroscopy, the surgeon inserts a small camera or arthroscope into the hip joint. It displays images on a video monitor and guides the surgeon using miniature surgical instruments.
In Mr. Morreal, “we identified an impact or a bony conflict between the femur and acetabular bone and then targeted the impact,” says Dr. Lazaro. The condition, femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), is when additional bone grows along one or both of the bones that make up the hip joint, creating an irregular shape. Since they do not fit together as usual, the bones rub against each other during movement – which leads to an “impact”.
FAI occurs because the hip bones do not form normally during the growing years of childhood. Some people may have FAI and never develop problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), it is believed that athletes may exercise the hip joint harder and experience pain earlier than those who are less active. However, regular exercise doesn’t cause an FAI, according to the AAOS.
In Mr. Morreal’s case, Dr. Lazaro “Resected bone to improve the mechanics of the hip joint, and then we corrected the soft tissue injury that resulted from that bony impact.”
In hip arthroscopy “we work with the arthroscope – only small holes – with a minimally invasive technique,” explains Dr. Lazaro. “We can see everything in the hip joint and that allows us to do a good resection of the bony impact.”
Mr. Morreal said he fully understood the benefits of this minimally invasive procedure.
“While surgery is never fun, Dr. Lazaro is a great choice when it is necessary,” says the athlete. “He helped me understand everything from x-rays to MRIs, operations to the rehabilitation process. He communicates very well and makes the entire experience a lot easier for the patient. “
As he resumes training for the upcoming decathlon, Mr. Morreal is very encouraged by his speedy recovery.
“My recovery was almost perfect,” he says. “I had no setbacks or hiccups on the way because our sports trainers at the FIU did a great job and helped me with my physiotherapy.”
Dr. Lazaro enjoys comeback stories like Mr. Morreal’s. “To be able to restore a patient’s ability to be part of their sport – that’s why I do this job,” he says. “It is really a very good reward for me to be able to give them back this function, this happiness and this quality of life.”
Mr. Morreal says he feels better than ever.
“After I fully completed my rehabilitation process, I had next to no problems other than the occasional pain or had to warm up a little more for a few days,” he says. “My hip feels even better than it did before the pain started.”