Hip Labral Tears

Your labrum is the ring of cartilage that protects the outside rim of your acetabulum (the hip joint socket). Its function is to hold the ball at the top of your femur (thighbone) securely in place within the hip socket, as well as helping to cushion the hip joint and distribute pressure within the joint as you move. The hip labrum is a hard-wearing crescent-shaped section of cartilage that can tear or become completely detached from the acetabulum in certain circumstances.

Causes of hip labral tears

Hip labral tears can be caused by making repetitive movements which lead to wear and tear of your hip joint and can ultimately result in tears in the labrum. Long distance runners and golfers are at risk of this type of injury. Or labral tears can be due to a sudden traumatic injury, such as a heavy collision during a high impact sport like hockey or football. Hip dislocations can be accompanied by a labral tear and femoroacetabular impingement increases the risk of sustaining hip labral tears. If you are born with certain types of hip deformities you are more likely to experience labral tears. For example, if you have a particularly shallow acetabulum this increases stress on the labrum, or if the acetabulum doesn’t fully cover the ball at the top of the femur (dysplasia), it can damage the labrum and subsequently lead to tearing.

Symptoms of hip labral tears

In many cases you can have a hip labral tear without realising it as it causes no obvious symptoms. For other people, however, a labral tear leads to a deep pain in the hip, groin or buttocks. This pain may worsen with extended walking, standing, exercise or sitting and when you rotate your hip joint. The hip may feel stiff and have limited mobility. You may hear a clicking noise or the hip joint may lock or catch when you try to move it.

Diagnosis of hip labral tears

It can be difficult to diagnose a labral tear, particularly if there are no symptoms. Such injuries are sometimes mistaken for groin strains as they share similar characteristics. Your doctor will carry out a physical examination and ask you to move your leg and hip in various ways to assess pain and function. If they suspect a hip labral tear, you will normally need an X-ray or MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and to check for other injuries as hip labral tears are often accompanied by structural problems in the hip or hip arthritis. If you have an MRI scan, a harmless dye may be injected into your joint to make any tearing easier to see. An injection of local anaesthetic may be given into the joint to check that the hip is the source of the pain and it is not coming from somewhere else.

Treatment of hip labral tears

Treatment of hip labral tears will depend on whether you have any symptoms and how severe they are. You may recover in a few weeks with rest and painkillers. Anti-inflammatories can be effective in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. You may also be offered an injection of corticosteroids into the joint which can provide short-term pain relief for a few months. A physiotherapist will be able to show you exercises to build core strength and stability in your hip and increase flexibility, as well as advising you what sort of movements and activities to avoid.

In some cases, a hip labral tear may require surgical repair. Often this can be done arthroscopically as an outpatient, using keyhole surgery. The surgeon will insert the arthroscope through a small incision in your hip which allows them to see inside the joint. Narrow surgical instruments are inserted to remove any torn pieces of labrum and repair the tear.

Outcomes of hip labral tears treatment

Surgery to repair a labral tear is an effective way to relieve pain, improve flexibility in the hip and increase muscle strength. You will normally need to use crutches for two to six weeks while your hip is healing and it can be two to six months before you can return to sporting activity. Post-surgical physiotherapy will help you to make a good recovery and develop muscle strength.


We are an experienced and highly qualified team of orthopaedic surgeons using the latest surgical and non-surgical techniques to eliminate or reduce pain so our patients can experience the best possible quality of life.


Whether you have an existing diagnosis or you are keen to discover what is causing your symptoms, contact us to arrange a consultation. We can organise any tests you require and discuss your treatment options.

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