It’s hard right now to be a Celtics fan. Coinciding with two upsets against the Cleveland, Cavaliers, one in which Boston lost by forty-four points, is star point-guard Isaiah Thomas’ postseason-ending hip injury. NBA.com reported on Saturday that Thomas exacerbated an injury he’d sustained in March, a “right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear,” while playing the second playoff series game against Cleveland.
Femoral Acetabular Impingement
What is a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear? “Femoral” refers to femur, which is the hip bone. The hip is called a ball-and-socket joint because there’s a round head at the top of the femur (ball) that fits into a socket-like opening. In this case, the socket, in medical terms, is the acetabulum, which belongs to the plated bone that makes up the pelvis (ilium). The labrum is the fibrous cartilage that lines the acetabulum, helping the hip joint to fit securely in place.
In Isaiah Thomas’ case, the condition of femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) is likely what caused the labral tear, according to the description provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
“In FAI, bone overgrowth — called bone spurs — develop around the femoral head and/or along the acetabulum. This extra bone causes abnormal contact between the hip bones, and prevents them from moving smoothly during activity.”
Given this information, it seems Thomas may have had symptoms of FAI in his right hip for awhile but wasn’t bothered enough by it to seek treatment. It’s when the bones are left to grind against one another for an extended period of time that results in injuries like the labral tear, which could be what Isaiah suffered during Game 2.
How did Isaiah Thomas come to be afflicted with this condition? Sources indicate that FAI takes place as a result of the femur not developing correctly during adolescence. When this happens, there’s unfortunately not a lot that can be done to fix it.
Though physical fitness has been shown to accelerate symptoms of FAI, having an extremely active lifestyle, such as playing for the NBA, does not cause the condition.
If a case of femoral acetabular impingement is left untreated, symptoms will only get worse. As Thomas has already been diagnosed with FAI, he and his medical team are free to explore treatment options.
Is Surgery A Possibility?
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was interviewed by the press on Sunday, and he told reporters that surgery could end up being a possibility for his star point-guard. The coach said that Thomas has appointments scheduled with “specialists” starting on Monday. When asked when he thought Isaiah had suffered the labral tear, Stevens said he didn’t know for sure, but speculated that it could have happened in March, when Thomas’ hip pain first became a problem.
Brad Stevens said Isaiah Thomas tried to talk his way back into the second half of Game 2. pic.twitter.com/r6igSlfhnH— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) May 21, 2017
Stevens commented that Thomas hates not being able to play and after sustaining his hip injury during Friday’s game, the 28-year-old tried to talk doctors into letting him return to the court despite the pain he was in.
If surgery does end up being in the cards for Isaiah Thomas, most hip impingement operations can be done via arthroscopy, which is when tiny incisions are made around the joint and a small camera, or scope, is inserted to survey the damage. From there, small surgical instruments can be used to fix whatever needs to be mended. If damage to the joint is extensive enough, arthroscopy may not suffice and a more invasive surgery may be needed.
In addition to FAI, Thomas also tore his right labrum, which, according to Mayo Clinic sometimes requires surgery to correct and other times does not. Arthroscopy is also the preferred surgical method to fix a labral tear. Depending on the severity of the tear, the labral tissue may be removed or stitched back together.
It’s almost impossible to predict what will become of Isaiah Thomas’ injury. If his FAI has been caught early enough and, surgery or no surgery, damage to the joint and surrounding cartilage is minimal, perhaps all he’ll need is the summer to recover. With what we know right now, it’s simply too soon to tell what this Celtics player’s future holds.
[Featured Image by Charles Krupa/AP Images]