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BACKGROUND: Cam morphology, a distinct bony morphology of the hip, is prevalent in many athletes, and a risk factor for hip-related pain and osteoarthritis. Secondary cam morphology, due to existing or previous hip disease (eg, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease), is well-described. Cam morphology not clearly associated with a disease is a challenging concept for clinicians, scientists and patients. We propose this morphology, which likely develops during skeletal maturation as a physiological response to load, should be referred to as primary cam morphology. The aim of this study was to introduce and clarify the concept of primary cam morphology. DESIGN: We conducted a concept analysis of primary cam morphology using articles that reported risk factors associated with primary cam morphology; we excluded articles on secondary cam morphology. The concept analysis method is a rigorous eight-step process designed to clarify complex 'concepts'; the end product is a precise definition that supports the theoretical basis of the chosen concept. RESULTS: We propose five defining attributes of primary cam morphology-tissue type, size, site, shape and ownership-in a new conceptual and operational definition. Primary cam morphology is a cartilage or bony prominence (bump) of varying size at the femoral head-neck junction, which changes the shape of the femoral head from spherical to aspherical. It often occurs in asymptomatic male athletes in both hips. The cartilage or bone alpha angle (calculated from radiographs, CT or MRI) is the most common method to measure cam morphology. We found inconsistent reporting of primary cam morphology taxonomy, terminology, and how the morphology is operationalised. CONCLUSION: We introduce and clarify primary cam morphology, and propose a new conceptual and operational definition. Several elements of the concept of primary cam morphology remain unclear and contested. Experts need to agree on the new taxonomy, terminology and definition that better reflect the primary cam morphology landscape-a bog-standard bump in most athletic hips, and a possible hip disease burden in a selected few.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Sports Med

Publication Date



adolescent, athletes, hip, sporting injuries, training load