A labral tear is a tear in the fibrocartilaginous structure that rims the acetabulum (the area where your hip and femur meet). The labrum is a band of strong, flexible cartilage that rims the outer edge of the hip socket and cushions the hip from friction with the femoral head. This provides stability to the hip and seals the joint. When there is damage to the labrum, hip or groin pain may occur and there may be a possibility of hip locking and instability. Tears in the labrum often result from high impact sports or one-time traumas such as car accidents or slip and falls.
Anterior vs Posterior Labral Tears
Anterior tears are sustained from repetitive pivoting and poor blood supply to the hip joint. These tears are located at the front of the hip and are more common than posterior tears. Posterior labral tears are located on the back of the hip joint. These types of tears may result from movements such as frequent squatting.
Symptoms of labral tears can appear gradually or suddenly. The gradual onset of symptoms may stem from activities such as regularly playing sports. Conversely, the sudden onset of pain may come from an incident such as a football tackle or an auto accident.
Hip pain related to a labral tear is often described as a constant, deep dull aching when the body is at rest and occasional sharp stinging pain that worsens during everyday activities such as walking. This pain often flows around the hip, seemingly in a ‘c’ shape.
You May Also Experience:
Hip Instability- The hip and leg feel like they’re about to give way, especially when standing for long periods of time, walking or running.
Day-to-day Limitations- you may have trouble with participating in sports such as golf, ballet, soccer or running (track). These activities may cause the pain to intensify. You may also need to hold onto railings in order to climb the stairs.
Decrease in Range of Motion- you may feel like your femur is caught within its socket during everyday movement. You may also experience stiffness, locking or clicking.
Difficulty Sitting and Standing- you may have difficulty sitting for long periods of time, feel discomfort when standing and may even experience limping. Additionally you may have deep groin pain or pain in the buttocks.
Parties at Risk
Women– Women are more at risk for labral tears than men.
Hip Impingement– this is when the joint’s ball and socket grow excess bone, causing there to be an abnormal contact between the two. Those who have hip impingement may experience a decreased range of motion.
Hip Dysplasia – an inherited/genetic condition in which the hip socket is shallow and cannot fully support the femoral head.
Capsular Laxity– the main source of your hip’s stability is the fibrous joint capsule made up of ligaments. These ligaments attach the hip and femoral head together and surround the joint. Laxity or looseness can develop when the hip is frequently over-rotated. This can occur when participating in sports such as golf, gymnastics, dance, baseball, and hockey.
Micro-trauma and Trauma- trauma may result from a car accident, a slip and fall, or from sports injuries. Micro-traumas may result from unnoticeable injuries that build up over time.
Age– Labral tears may affect anyone from 8-75. With such a wide age range, researchers are unable to use age as a determining factor for the risk of injury.
Osteoarthritis- As cartilage slowly erodes over time, it becomes more prone to tearing. Those who have osteoarthritis also have a higher chance of sustaining a labral tear. Furthermore, the elderly and those with excessive weight are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
A combination of avoiding activities that cause pain, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory over the counter medicines can help treat labral tears. If these techniques do not provide pain relief, injections and surgical treatment may be considered.
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