Ashton Barrick

After being diagnosed with debilitating hip condition similar to that which ended the professional sports career of Bo Jackson, Ashton Barrick, 7, spends most of his time sitting on the couch or walking slowly and painfully with the help of a walker. A fundraiser has been scheduled for April 22 at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department to help his mother with her mounting expenses. (Photo by Noah Scialom / March 29, 2012)

Ashton Barrick loves watching Nickelodeon, hates school and gets so absorbed in his video games that his mother, Jennifer Barrick, must occasionally repeat a command.

Despite those habits, typical ones for a 7-year-old boy, Ashton stands out.

He strings together long, flowing sentences with vocabulary more likely found on the SATs than from the mouth of an elementary school student.

The right leg of most of his pants has a long slit, from which protrudes a metal and plastic brace that runs from his hip to his ankle.

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The brace is held in place by six pins that penetrate his leg. The biggest pin made a hole as big as a silver dollar, his mother said.

So sensitive is Ashton's right leg that a single move in the wrong direction elicits screams.

Diagnosing the problem

Nearly a year ago, Ashton, then 6, finished playing in a moon bounce and began walking with a limp.

Doctors gave Ashton an initial diagnosis of a pulled muscle. But the limp persisted for several weeks.

"We took him to the doctor again, and they do the stretches with him," Jennifer Barrick said of the basic exercises the doctor had her son do.

"When he jumped, (the doctor) didn't like how he was jumping with the stretches, so she sent us for X-rays," she said. "And that's when they noticed he had this disease."

The follow-up examination showed he had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, Barrick said.

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease prevents the ball of the thighbone in the hip from getting enough blood, which causes the bone to die, according to the website of the National Institutes of Health.

According to the website of the National Osteonecrosis Foundation, the disease affects one in 1,200 children with boys three times more likely than girls to contract the disease.

The disease typically occurs in children between the ages of 4 and 10. Those diagnosed before the age of 6 and treated are more likely to have a "normal hip joint," according to the NIH website.

Ashton's mother called her son's age when doctors diagnosed his condition a "gray area."

But the impact on his life has been significant.

The disease has left Ashton unable to participate in neighborhood events such as a recent Easter Egg hunt.

After a single scrimmage he had to give up soccer, which his 17-year-old sister, Siera, played as a freshman and sophomore at Catonsville High School.

Ashton can't even join his first-grade classmates at Arbutus Elementary School. A tutor provided by Baltimore County Public Schools last week ensures he doesn't fall too far behind, his mother said.