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Labral Tears

What is a labral tear?

Hip labral tears are common sports injuries. In the majority of cases, the cause is not known. Tears happen when the labrum is worn due to repetitive use or from a traumatic injury like a hip dislocation.

Labral tears are more common in women and people who play sports that require repetitive hip flexion and sudden impact like cycling, gymnastics, tennis, jumping, running, soccer, football and hockey.

Labral tears have also been linked to osteoarthritis in the joint and femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) where the labrum is pinched. People with certain congenital deformities of the hip joint are also more likely to have a tear in their labrum. Labral tears also become more common as we age, and age-related changes cause the cartilage fibers to weaken and become more susceptible to damage.

Without prompt medical attention, a hip labral tear can lead to the development of gait problems and a painful hip, which in turn increases the likelihood you’ll have long term hip problems.

What is the hip labral?

The hip labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the outer edge or rim of the hip socket (acetabulum).  It functions to deepen the socket, hold the ball at the top of the thigh bone firmly in its socket, allows for a wide range of movement, and protects the joint surfaces.  Sadly, the labrum has a limited blood supply and a poor ability to heal on its own.

Symptoms of a torn hip labrum

A hip labral tear can be a source of considerable pain and irritation in and around the joint, sometimes extending into the groin or buttocks. Recent research reports that almost 22% of athletes with groin pain have a labral tear.

The pain tends to worsen with weight-bearing activities like walking or standing or flexion positions of the hip during sitting or climbing stairs. The joint may feel stiff and your range of motion can be limited. Some people notice a clicking or “catching” sensation in the joint or a feeling of instability or “giving way” when walking or moving the hip. Over time, a labral tear can change the way you walk, resulting in pain in your lower back, knees and ankles. Instability in the joint can increase, leading to long-term hip problems.

How are hip labral tears diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis of a hip labral tear begins with a physical examination and a review of your symptoms. Dr. Jonathan Godin at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado will also ask you about the activities that cause pain in your hip, and he’ll use active and passive movements to zero-in on the location of your pain and to evaluate its extent. He’ll also order diagnostic imaging of your hip joint to assess the bones and the labrum.

Once a hip labral tear has been diagnosed, treatment will depend on the extent of the damage, your activity level and other factors. For very small tears, treatment may begin conservatively with activity modification, pain medication, corticosteroid injections and physical therapy. For more serious tears or when conservative treatment options don’t provide relief and healing, surgery may be recommended.

Because the labrum has a poor ability to heal, special surgical techniques can be employed to repair the tear in some cases. In some cases the tear cannot be repaired and will require either debridement or reconstruction with the patient’s own tissue or donor tissue.

Dr. Jonathan Godin is an award-winning authority on the hip, knee and shoulder. He puts his patients’ first and moves advancements in orthopedic surgery from the lab to the operating room to deliver the best care available. You can find Dr. Godin at the renowned Steadman Clinic is Vail, Colorado. Contact him to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.

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