Hip Labral Tears


What is a labral tear? 

The hip labrum is a ring of strong, flexible cartilage that rims the outer edge of the hip socket (acetabulum) and gives it stability. Besides cushioning the hip joint, the labrum acts like a seal to help hold the ball securely within your hip socket. It also helps to keep joint fluid inside the hip capsule, which reduces joint stress and friction and allows the ball and socket to smoothly move past one another.

A labral tear in the hip can be caused by many different reasons. Some tears can result from an acute injury, such as a fall or a sporting injury when their hip is forced into extreme positions. It can also be damaged by repetitive trauma in sports that require regular rotation of the hip. However, more commonly, labral tears occur as a result of an underlying bone abnormality known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).  

Labral tears may also be present in people with hip arthritis. In this case, the labral tear may be part of an overall degeneration of the joint. In these patients, treatment is usually geared towards treating the arthritic joint as a whole.


What are the symptoms of a labral tear? 

Labral tears most commonly result in anterior groin pain that is worse with increased activity or with deep flexion (bending) and rotation of the hip. Most patients describe the pain as a sharp pain that is very deep, and they may also report a painful clicking or locking sensation in the hip with certain movements. Patients may experience pain and discomfort when they have to sit for long periods of time, for example, during a flight or long car ride. It is also common to experience difficulty navigating stairs and pain when transitioning from sitting to a standing position.


How are hip labral tears diagnosed?

Most hip pain that lasts more than a few days should be looked at by a physician. Dr. Potts will ask about symptoms and the history of injury, as well as perform a physical exam. X-rays are used to look at the structure of the hip, and a specialized MRI (called an MRI arthrogram) is used to confirm the diagnosis.


What is the treatment?

Initially, non-operative treatment is preferred. This usually consists of rest, activity modification, and anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy is also used for muscle strengthening to improve the patient’s symptoms and function level. While this may not “cure” their hip or labral tear, patients may feel good enough to resume any activity they desire with minimal pain. 

If your pain persists and nonsurgical treatment doesn’t provide adequate relief, Dr. Potts may recommend a minimally invasive hip arthroscopy surgery. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis and uses small incisions around the hip with specialized instruments to perform a labral repair.