Objective: Specific patterns of developmental adaptation of the proximal femur have been recognized in some sports. Gymnastics are characterized by repetitive axial loading and hip rotations in combination with extreme hip positions. It is unknown how and if these forces can affect an immature skeleton in the long term. We sought to evaluate this, by means of magnetic resonance imaging of the hip and groin of such elite asymptomatic athletes.
Materials and methods: We performed a case-control comparative MR imaging study of both hips and groin of 12 (7 male, 5 female) skeletally mature young (mean age 18.6 years) asymptomatic international level gymnasts with a minimum of 10 years' training with age-matched non-athletes. At the time of recruitment, none of the athletes had a recorded musculoskeletal complaint or injury in the anatomical area around the hip.
Results: The study showed that elite gymnasts share four common morphological characteristics on MRI that deviate from normal and are considered to be the result of adaptational changes to the specific sport: high centre-column-diaphysis angle (coxa valga140° on average), ligamentum teres hypertrophy, friction of the iliotibial band with oedema surrounding the greater trochanter, and a high incidence (62.5 %) of radiological appearances of ischiofemoral impingement.
Conclusion: Our study showed that elite gymnasts share four common morphological characteristics on MRI that deviate from normal. These findings were in asymptomatic subjects; hence, radiologists and sports physicians should be aware of them in order to avoid unnecessary treatment.