The surgeon said I was “lucky.” Not the word I would’ve chosen when I heard the news that I have a femoral neck stress reaction or fracture! But the more I think about it and process the results of the MRI, the more I’m inclined to agree.
The week of my MRI, this was the chronology:
Monday – first track workout in nearly a year. Hip was a little sore afterward, but nothing that felt out of the ordinary.
Tuesday – MRI with a steroid injection. The radiologist warned me I’d feel sore for a couple of days, so I wasn’t surprised when I had some discomfort for the next two days.
Wednesday & Thursday – Ran some easy miles but hip was still pretty sore.
Friday – Off, resting and deciding whether to race the 10k on Saturday. Called the surgeon’s office to get the MRI results before racing. The surgeon was out of town, and the PA who read the results told me it was okay to race as long as it wasn’t “like 26 miles or something.” In retrospect, that was not the best advice. But when a medical professional tells me I CAN run, I don’t question it!
Saturday – “Raced” a 10k and came in a solid 3 minutes slower than I’d secretly hoped. Hip hurt quite a bit before and after the race, pretty much the second I stopped running. I’m used to hip pain, but this felt different…..
For the remainder of the long weekend, I rested the hip and googled hip arthroscopy. I knew from the conversation with the PA that I’d need surgery to fix the labral tear, but didn’t know any of the particulars. I also knew that something else was going on. If it was just the labral tear, the steroids should have relieved the pain within a few days. But the pain was persisting, even at rest. As desperate as I was to deny it, it felt like stress fracture pain.
On Tuesday, I called the surgeon’s office and repeated my question to his nurse. Am I ok to keep running? She told me that he and PA were in surgery until the afternoon, and that he’d call me afterward. That afternoon, she called me with a message, “Dr. L said NOT to run, and he will call you tomorrow.” Ugh!
The call finally came from the surgeon late in the afternoon on Wednesday. The MRI indicated a stress reaction/ possible fracture on the femoral neck. And based on the chronology and my symptoms, we caught it the day after it happened. He said typically this sort of injury can be disastrous as it often goes undiagnosed until after significant damage has been done. Had I kept running on it (as I would have done, just assuming it was pain from the labral tear), it could have easily progressed into a complete fracture or more serious stress fracture. I would’ve been on crutches for weeks, with no running for months…..and that was if it healed well. As it stands now, though, I don’t need crutches and it’s likely I will be able to run again in 4-6 weeks.
So yes, I’m feeling lucky. Lucky that I made it through training and running Boston on a bum hip, that the stress fracture happened AFTER Boston, that I got the MRI when I did. I already miss running, but I’ve been through this before and know it’s not the end of the world. I can and will come back stronger. It might take a couple of years, but I’ll get there!
Now, back to the reason I got the MRI in the first place–the suspected labral tear. It’s definitely a tear! And it’s due to the structure of my anatomy (CAM impingement) not due to my running mechanics. That’s good news and bad news. The good news is I don’t need to relearn how to run properly. (It wasn’t my fault! It’s not just a weak core or lazy glutes!) The bad news is it’s 99% likely that I have the same impingement issue on the other side and will likely wind up needing surgery on the other hip as well.
The surgery is fairly intense–such that I’ll be on crutches for 3 weeks and unable to drive for a couple of weeks. The earliest I could begin to slowly, cautiously return to running is 9 weeks out. I’m still trying to figure out when I can schedule it, but am thinking it would be late fall or winter at the earliest. I’m feeling at peace with it all, and glad to have mapped out a way forward, back to full strength.
In the meantime, I’m feeling very LUCKY to have avoided crutches and to be able to enjoy this beautiful Alaskan summer with my family!