Labral Tear of the Hip

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that runs along the rim of the hip socket. It acts as a shock absorber and helps ensure that the head of the femur remains snugly in place.

A tear in the labrum of the hip is common in athletes who play sports that engage the hip significantly such as soccer, golf and football. It may also occur due to congenital abnormalities of the hip structure. These tears are also common due to a trauma, for example a motor vehicle accident or a blow from contact sports.

Signs and Symptoms of a Labral Tear of the Hip

In many cases, patients will not even realize they have a labral tear. However, if symptoms do occur, they usually come in the form of pain, which can be located in the hip and/or groin. This pain will be more significant after intense exercise or long periods of standing or sitting. Patients may experience a locking sensation or clicking in the hip; they may also lose some range of motion.

Diagnosing a Labral Tear

After some time of mild to moderate discomfort, patients often come to their orthopedic surgeon with nonspecific hip complaints. A full history and physical exam will be performed to understand the range of motion of the hip, as well as where any discomfort occurs. Further, X-ray, and sometimes MRI imaging, may be taken to understand more about the bones and soft tissue in the hip. Because labral tears often occur concurrently with other injuries, different imaging may be required.

Treating a Labral Tear

The severity of the pain and discomfort, as well as current and expected activity levels, will determine the best course of treatment. However, many labral tears respond well to conservative treatment, including rest and anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen to control the pain and inflammation. Cortisone injections may also be used for temporary pain relief and inflammation reduction.

Patients may also undergo a course of physical therapy to help improve range of motion, reduce swelling and stiffness and strengthen associated muscles.

However, if conservative treatment does not show results, surgery may be considered. The definitive treatment for a labral tear is hip arthroscopy, during which tiny surgical tools are inserted through a series of very small incisions. A fiber optic camera is used to visualize the hip joint and surgical field.

Depending on the severity of the injury, some cartilage may need to be trimmed and removed. In other cases, the labrum can be sewed together and allowed to heal.

Surgery for a labral tear is usually very safe and effective. Of most concern is infection, continuing pain and, much less commonly — especially with an experienced orthopedic surgeon, injury to surrounding nerves. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Manning to learn more about labral tear treatment.

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