Conditions + Treatments

Hip Impingement/Femoacetabular Hip Impingement (FAI) | Overview

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Boston Children’s hip specialists treat patients of all ages. Many teens and young adults with hip problems need diagnostic and surgical techniques that differ from what’s indicated for older adults. Our surgeons are recognized across the globe as pioneers in hip arthroscopy for teens and young adults, and our clinicians and researchers are dedicated to finding better ways to care for adolescents and young adults with hip problems.

What is hip impingement?

Hip impingement (femoral acetabular impingement or FAI) is a wear-and-tear condition, affecting about 20 percent of the total population. It’s more common among younger athletes—especially those in sports requiring turning, twisting and squatting motions—and physically active people. In the normal hip, there is smooth gliding motion of the round head of the thigh bone (femoral head) within the hip socket (acetabulum).

Hip impingement occurs when abnormalities in the bone disturb this gliding motion. This results in friction between the femoral head and hip socket. This friction can wear away the cartilage and cause a labrum tear (the cushion, or seal, that lines the hip joint).

Hip joint illustration

The normal hip joint

The hip joint is one of the body's most reliable structures, providing most people with movement and support without pain or problems for a lifetime. The hip’s simple ball-and-socket anatomy—with the ball-shaped femoral head rotating inside a cup-shaped socket called the acetabulum—usually works well with little friction and little or no wear. 

The surfaces of the femoral head and acetabulum, which face each other, are lined with a layer of cartilage and lubricated by a thin fluid film.

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