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Understanding Killian Hayes’ Hip Injury

Early Wednesday morning The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Pistons rookie Killian Hayes suffered a torn hip labrum in his fall on January 4. The injury is a significant blow for the French point guard selected with the seventh overall pick in November’s draft. InStreetClothes.com previously examined hip labrum issues in November of 2015, but let’s review the injury once again.

The primary joint of the hip is the acetabulofemoral (AF) joint. The AF joint is classified as a ball-and-socket joint, just like the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder. Like their name suggests, ball-and-socket joints are formed when a round end of a bone sits in the groove of another, similarly to a golf ball on a tee. For the AF joint, the head of the large upper leg bone known as the femur serves as the golf ball while a grove in the pelvis known as the acetabulum acts as the tee. The rounded head of the femur can freely pivot on the acetabulum allowing for a large amount of mobility. Unfortunately, the mobility of the joint results in a reduction in stability. However, the acetabulum is equipped with a special ring of fibrocartilage known as the labrum that widens the bases of the acetabulum and increases stability. The joint is further fortified by the neighboring muscles and ligaments of the hip.

Given its positioning, the labrum remains vulnerable to both acute and chronic injuries. In chronic cases, repetitive motion can cause the labrum to fray or tear. This often occurs when the individual has an inherent issue with the shape of the head of the femur. These various anatomical variances can pinch the labrum, leading to a gradual breakdown over time. If left untreated, chronic instability in the hip can develop over time. Former Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas famously dealt with hip labrum issues and ultimately underwent a hip resurfacing surgery to address his problem.

While Hayes’ injury appears to be an acute case that occurred when he hit the court, surgery is often the most proactive form of treatment. Looking at other examples in the NBA, the overwhelming majority of hip labrum tears result in surgical intervention. Players that have gone under the knife for hip labrum issues include Thomas, Wilson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Michael Carter-Williams.

Unfortunately, recovery for surgery is lengthy and usually measured in months not weeks. Since the 2005-06 season, only one NBA player, former Laker Jordan Hill, managed to return in the same year following an in-season surgery for a hip labrum injury. Hill missed 49 regular season games after surgery for a torn hip labrum in January of 2013 but was able to return for the postseason.

Hayes’ fate will ultimately be decided by the extent of his labral tear and the necessary treatment plan. Still, the precedent set by former NBA players suggests he’s in for a long recovery. Age is on Hayes’ side and should help him bounce back but this is an unfortunate setback for the promising point guard.

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