Definition

A hip labral tear is an injury to the cartilage inside the hip joint. The hip joint is made of a ball and socket. The ball is the end of the thigh bone (femur). This ball fits into the bowl-shaped socket in the pelvic bone (acetabulum). Cartilage lines the socket to keep movement smooth and the joint cushioned. When the cartilage tears it is called a hip labral tear.

Hip Joint and Cartilage

Hip cartilage
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor promptly.

Causes

Hip labral tears can result from wear and tear or from an acute injury. Causes may include:

  • Wear and tear of hip joint from different activities (eg, golf, softball)
  • Traumatic injury to hip
  • Twisting injuries
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of a hip labral tear. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAI)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trauma to hip
  • Slipped capital epiphysis

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and can be subtle. If you have any of these do not assume it is due to a hip labral tear. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Hip pain: sharp, deep, disabling
  • Locking or clicking of hip
  • Feeling of hip “giving way”
  • Limited range of motion
  • Tenderness on exam
  • Groin, buttock, or thigh pain
  • Pain during activity

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will likely be referred to a specialist. An orthopedic surgeon focuses solely on issues of bones and joints.

Tests may include the following:

  • Thorough physical exam—including an evaluation of your hip range of motion and watching how you walk
  • MRI arthrography—test that uses magnetic waves and contrast to make pictures of structures like the hip joint and bones
  • X-rays may be included to rule out other causes of symptoms
  • Diagnostic injection of local anesthetic is sometimes performed

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medical Treatment

Common medical treatment may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Modified activity
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles

Generally this treatment is tried for several weeks. If there is no improvement surgery is considered.

Surgical Treatment

Arthroscopy uses a thin, lighted tube inserted through a small incision to view the injury and fix it. Small instruments are threaded through this tube. The torn cartilage may be removed or sewn together.

Rehabilitation

After surgery you may be fitted with a brace. This will provide support and aid healing. A therapist will work with you. The therapy will include strength exercise and a plan to increase your weight bearing.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent a hip labral tear.