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Stevenson High School standout guard Connor Cashaw had earned a full scholarship to Rice University in Texas even before his team won the Illinois state championship two years ago. With his NBA dream waiting in the wings, the only potential detour on Cashaw’s trajectory was cringe-worthy hip pain and fear that something far more serious was going on.
Expert for the Pros
With Rice coaches counting on their prospect arriving in top condition, Cashaw turned to NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute Surgeon Patrick Birmingham, MD, for answers. Dr. Birmingham, who holds an academic title at the Pritzker School of Medicine, is a highly sought-after sports medicine specialist and a team physician for the Chicago Bears.
“I had a lot going through my head. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play,” recalled Cashaw, 20, of Lincolnshire. “But Dr. Birmingham pinpointed exactly what was wrong. I was so thankful to have such a great doctor, especially since my injury was hard to detect.”
Dr. Birmingham diagnosed Cashaw with femoroacetabular impingement—a condition that occurs when hip bones do not form normally. Instead of being shaped like a lightbulb, the ball of Cashaw’s hip joint had a bony overgrowth. Rather than rotating smoothly, his ball and socket hit against each other, causing a tear in the labrum (cartilage lining the hip socket). The result was agonizing pain.
Back on the Court
During minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery in April 2015, Dr. Birmingham shaved and reshaped Cashaw’s femoral ball so it fit perfectly into the socket. A nationally recognized expert with vast experience performing this procedure, Dr. Birmingham teaches the technique to surgeons worldwide. Many professional and amateur athletes seek his expertise to get back to peak performance.
“This is something athletes ignore and live with or write off as a groin pull, but it never goes away,” Dr. Birmingham said. “The pain gets progressively worse and affects their level of ability to compete, and that’s when they come in to see me.”
After five months of rehabilitation, Cashaw was back in top condition, his dream reimagined. He quickly impressed at Rice by playing all 32 games his freshman year, making 17 starts and averaging 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
“Dr. Birmingham explained how much experience he had with other athletes having the same problem, so we had complete trustin him,” Cashaw said. “He really helped me out, and I’m so grateful!”