Overview

A hip labral tear involves the ring of cartilage (labrum) that follows the outside rim of the hip joint socket. Besides cushioning the hip joint, the labrum acts like a rubber seal or gasket to help hold the ball at the top of the thighbone securely within the hip socket.

Athletes who participate in sports such as ice hockey, soccer, football, golf and ballet are at higher risk of developing hip labral tears. Structural problems of the hip also can lead to a hip labral tear.

Symptoms

Many hip labral tears cause no signs or symptoms. Some people, however, have one or more of the following:

  • Pain in the hip or groin, often made worse by long periods of standing, sitting or walking or athletic activity
  • A locking, clicking or catching sensation in the hip joint
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in the hip joint

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or don't improve within six weeks.

Causes

The cause of a hip labral tear might be:

  • Trauma. Injury to or dislocation of the hip joint — which can occur during car accidents or from playing contact sports such as football or hockey — can cause a hip labral tear.
  • Structural problems. Some people are born with hip issues that can accelerate wear and tear of the joint and eventually cause a hip labral tear. This can include having a socket that doesn't fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone (dysplasia) or a shallow socket, which can put more stress on the labrum.

    Extra bone in the hip, called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), can also cause pinching of the labrum, which can lead to tearing over time.

  • Repetitive motions. Sports-related and other physical activities — including long-distance running and the sudden twisting or pivoting motions common in golf or softball — can lead to joint wear and tear that ultimately result in a hip labral tear.

Complications

A hip labral tear can make it more likely that you'll develop osteoarthritis in that joint.

Prevention

If the sports you play put a lot of strain on your hips, condition the surrounding muscles with strength and flexibility exercises.