What are labral tears of the hip?

A labral tear is a rupture in the cartilage ring (labrum) that lines the rim of the joint’s socket. The labrum cushions the hip joint, acting like a rubber seal to secure the ball at the upper part of the thighbone. The labrum assists the femoral head in moving smoothly without friction in the socket. This then allows the hip to move without any problems or pain.

What causes hip labral tears?

The following are the causes of hip labral tears:

  • Injury – Hip trauma may result in a labral hip tear, which may occur in people who partake in certain sports that have repetitive and high-impact movements. These sports may include football, hockey, golf and soccer.
  • Structural ailments cause abnormal hip movement, which may lead to hip labral tear
  • Degenerative health conditions include conditions such as osteoarthritis and the chronic wearing down of the cartilage in the joints. When the cartilage gradually erodes, it becomes more and more prone to tearing. People diagnosed with osteoarthritis normally experience pain and stiffness in more than one joint.

What are the signs of a hip labral tear?

There are different types of hip labral tears, such as anterior hip labral tears and posterior hip labral tears. Anterior hip labral tears are the common types of labral tears as they occur in front of the hip joint. Posterior hip labral tears occur at the back of the hip joint. Hip labral tears may cause similar symptoms regardless of the type of labral tear. However, the location of the symptoms may change depending on the location of the pain.

Hip labral tear symptoms may include the following:

  • Hip stiffness or limited range of motion.
  • A locking or clicking sensation in the hip joint when moving.
  • Pain in the groin, hip, or buttocks, especially when walking or running, and sometimes at night when you are asleep.

In some cases, labral tears of the hip don’t cause any symptoms and may go unnoticed for years.

How does Dr van Niekerk check for hip labral tears?

X-ray imaging is the standard diagnostic tool used to view bone in detail. An x-ray is done to diagnose structural-related issues that may cause the tear or arthritis that could cause the cartilage and bone to wear away. An MRI can be used to visualise the soft tissue in detail.

How do you treat hip labral tears?

There are several hip labral tear treatment options. Conservative treatments may be recommended as the first line of treatment. However, depending on the severity of the tear and pain, surgery may be recommended. Arthroscopic surgery is the most common surgery recommended to repair hip labral tears. This is a minimally invasive procedure that involves an orthopaedic surgeon making several keyhole incisions and passing an arthroscope (a special camera device) through the incisions to repair the labral tear. Surgical tools are also passed through the incisions to repair the tears.


How is a hip labral tear diagnosed?

An orthopaedic surgeon may diagnose a hip labral tear with a physical examination and imaging tests. Imaging tests that may be used include x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Will physical therapy be recommended?

Yes, physical therapy is recommended to help restore the range of motion of the joint and strengthen the region.

Can a labral tear heal on its own?

Hip labral tears don’t heal on their own. However, if the tear is minor and isn’t causing much pain or limiting your mobility, then it is possible to manage the symptoms without the need to repair it.