Hip Labral Tear

What is a hip labral tear?

A hip labral tear is a tear in the rubbery tissue (labrum) that normally cushions and supports the edge of the hip joint. Also known as an acetabular labral tear, this common hip injury can occur in children as young as 8, adults in their 70s, and everyone in between. In teens and young adults, hip labral tears are often the result of athletic activity. Structural issues, such as hip dysplasia or hip impingement, can also cause a tear in the labrum.

Hip labral tear treatments range from rest and physical therapy to surgery. If you have hip pain, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to limit any future damage to your hip.

What is the labrum and where is it located in the hip?

This is a look at a hip labral tear.The labrum is a ring of rubbery tissue that lines the rim of the hip socket (acetabulum). The labrum cushions and supports the hip joint while also stabilizing the joint. When you walk, run, jump, or twist, the labrum absorbs friction and distributes force evenly across the hip.

Are there different types of hip labral tear?

There are two types of hip labral tear: one occurs at the front of the hip and another at the back of the hip. The two types are usually caused by different motions.

  • Anterior labral tears are the most common type of hip labral tear. This type of hip tear occurs at the front of the hip and is typically caused by repetitive pivoting and twisting.
  • Posterior labral tears occur at the back of the hip. This type of hip tear is less common and is caused by traumatic injuries that strain the back of the hip joint.

What are the risk factors for a hip labral tear?

  • Gender: Hip labral tears are more common in girls than boys, most likely because girls have higher rates of hip dysplasia.
  • High-impact sports: Sports that typically involve tackling, falling, or collisions increase an athlete’s risk of a tear in the labrum.
  • Rotating sports: Sports that require repeated twisting and rotation of the hip bone inside the socket, such as golf and softball, also increase an athlete’s risk of a labral hip tear.

What are the symptoms of hip labral tear?

Hip labral tear symptoms may include:

  • a sharp pain in the front of the hip, sometimes shooting down the thigh — typically a symptom of an anterior labral tear
  • pain in the back of the thigh or buttock — typically a symptom of a posterior labral tear
  • hip stiffness or limited range of motion
  • a clicking sound in the hip when you move your leg
  • hip pain when you rotate your leg

What causes a hip labral tear?

A hip labral tear is a wear-and-tear injury. Athletes whose sports and activities involve repetitive rotating and twisting leg motions are particularly prone to this injury. Such sports include golf, soccer, ice hockey, ballet, gymnastics, and football.

Labral tears can also be caused by structural problems of the hip, including hip dysplasia and hip impingement. In both conditions the hip bone does not fit well in the hip socket, and can damage the labrum over time. In a small number of cases, labral tears can be caused by a trauma, like a car accident, fall, or a serious collision in sports.

How we care for hip labral tear at Boston Children’s Hospital

The Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program at Boston Children’s Hospital has a long tradition of excellence in treating children and adults with hip labral tears and other hip disorders. We approach each patient’s condition and injury as unique and base our clinical decisions on each patient’s situation. Whenever possible, we take a non-surgical approach to our patients’ hip conditions. When a patient does need surgery for a serious hip labral tear, our surgeons are recognized across the globe for excellence in hip arthroscopy and other surgical repairs. 

As the first program in the country to focus specifically on hip disorders in children and young adults, we are experts in diagnosing and treating hip pain so our patients can return to the activities they enjoy.