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'Over-training means I'm doing hip ops on boys of 15' - surgeon

Growing numbers of teenage GAA, soccer and rugby players undergoing gruelling training sessions are damaging their hips and end up needing surgery, a leading doctor has warned.

Patrick Carton, a specialist in orthopaedic hip and groin surgery at the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford who has operated on some of Ireland's top sports stars, said he is very concerned at the amount of training 12 to 17-year-olds are having to do for field sports.

"I operated on a 15-year-old who had to have both hips done. He's on a GAA minor county panel," he said.

"You could train for one hour, three to four times a week and do no harm, but many are training four times a week at full intensity, where they're doing lots of gruelling running, twisting and turning and lots of weights.

"They're coming home feeling broken and are stiff for the next two days.

"That's where the problems begin."


The negative effects of excessive training are also being seen in young people practising martial arts.

Mr Carton's experience has allowed him to develop a ground-breaking keyhole surgery technique to repair damage to hip joints caused by years of intense activity.

His findings are published in the current edition of the International Journal Of Hip Preservation Surgery.

The "labral cuff refixation" technique, which he has demonstrated to surgeons worldwide, allows the removal of harmful bone spurs that can result in arthritis while protecting vital soft tissue structures that previous techniques may have damaged.

Mr Carton said the effects of extreme training regimes mean he is seeing young sports people at the age of 19, though there is a trend for later presentation when they are in their 20s, which can mean injuries are not picked up early enough.

The most crucial time in an athlete's life is between the ages of 12 and 17, during which the body is undergoing rapid skeletal growth.

At this age they should only play one sport, and the practice of deep squatting and lunging should be discouraged, Mr Carton advised.

"We don't know really the exact size of the problem," he added.

"However, the intensity and number of training sessions need to be reviewed."