FIU Decathlon Athlete Back on Track After Hip Arthroscopy at Baptist Health’s Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute

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May 20, 2021


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Among both amateur and Olympic track & field athletes, it doesn’t get more challenging than the grueling 10-event, 2-day decathlon, which is synonymous with the “greatest athlete” title at the Olympics. Thomas Morreal, 20, is a “decathlete” at Florida International University.

In the Fall of 2019, hip pain would accompany his training, which includes running hurdles, the discus and javelin throws, the pole vault and 1,500-meter run.

“I first began experiencing minor pain in my hip in my freshman year of college,” recalls Mr. Morreal. “As time went along, it gradually got worse.”

Through FIU Athletics’ connection to Baptist Health’s Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, Mr. Morreal said he was fortunate to consult with Lionel E. Lazaro, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at the Institute.


Orthopedic surgeon and hip preservation specialist, Lionel E. Lazaro, M.D.

Dr. Lazaro says that the young athlete needed hip arthroscopy, a surgical procedure that allows doctors to view the hip joint without making a large incision (cut) through the skin and other soft tissues. During hip arthroscopy, surgeon inserts a small camera, or arthroscope, into the hip joint. It displays pictures on a video monitor, guiding the surgeon who utilizes miniature surgical instruments.

In Mr. Morreal, “we identified an impingement, or a bony conflict between the femur and the acetabular bone, and then we targeted the impingement,” says Dr. Lazaro. The condition, femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), is when extra bone grows along one or both of the bones that form the hip joint — creating an irregular shape. Because they do not fit together as they normally would, the bones rub against each other during movement — producing an “impingement.”

FAI occurs because the hip bones do not form normally during the childhood growing years. Some people may have FAI and never develop issues. It is believed that athletic people may work the hip joint more vigorously, they may begin to experience pain earlier than those who are less active, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Regular exercise, however, does not cause FAI, the AAOS states.

In Mr. Morreal’s case, Dr. Lazaro “resected bone to improve the mechanics of the hip joint and then we fixed the soft tissue injury that was a result of that bony impingement.”

With hip arthroscopy, “we go in with the arthroscope — just small holes — using a minimally invasive technique,” explains Dr. Lazaro. “We are able to see everything inside the hip joint and that allows us to do a good resection of the bony impingement.”

Mr. Morreal said he fully understood the benefits of this minimally invasive procedure.

“While surgery is never a fun thing, if it is necessary to do then Dr. Lazaro is a great choice,” says the track & field athlete. “He helped me fully understand everything from the X-rays to the MRIs to the surgery to the rehabilitation process. He communicates very well and makes the whole experience much easier for the patient.”

As he resumes his training for upcoming decathlons, Mr. Morreal is very encouraged by his swift recovery.

“My recovery went almost perfectly,” he says. “I had no setbacks or hiccups along the way as our athletic trainers at FIU did a great job helping me with my physical therapy.”

Dr. Lazaro relishes comeback stories such as Mr. Morreal’s. “Being able to give a patient back that ability to be part of his or her sport — that’s why I do this job,” he says. “It is really a very good reward for me being able to give them back that function, happiness and quality of life.”

Mr. Morreal says he’s feels better than ever.

“After fully completing my rehabilitation process, I have had next to no issues outside of the occasional soreness or need to warm up a little extra some days,” he says. “My hip feels even better than it did before the pain began to initially arise.”

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