Acetabular labral (hip) tears | Symptoms and Causes

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Right now, you may have many questions: How serious is an acetabular labral tear? What’s the best treatment? What do we do next? We’ve provided some answers to your questions on this site. Our hip experts can answer other questions you may have when you meet with us.

What is a normal hip joint?

The hip joint is one of the body's most reliable structures, providing most people
with movement and support without pain or problems for a lifetime. The hip’s
ball-and-socket anatomy—with the ball-shaped femoral head rotating inside a
Diagram of the hip jointcup-shaped socket called the acetabulum—usually works well with little friction and little or no wear.

The surfaces of the femoral head and acetabulum, which face each other, are lined with a layer of cartilage and lubricated by a thin fluid film.

What is an acetabular labral tear?

An acetabular labral tear is a tear in the seal that normally cushions the joint and provides joint stability and support. What causes an acetabular labral tear?

An acetabular labral tear is often a wear-and-tear injury caused by sports and activities that involve hip rotation. Labral tears are often associated with underlying structural problems of the hip. They also can occur with repetitive hip over-rotation and hyper-flexion in normal hips.

What are the signs and symptoms of a labral tear?

Signs and symptoms include:

•   a sharp pain in the front of the hip, sometimes shooting down the thigh
•   a locking, catching, clicking or giving-way sensation in the hip
•   pain when rotating the leg
•   pain in the back of the thigh or buttock
•   stiffness or limited range of motion in the hip joint

In some cases, a patient may not feel any pain.

Who is at risk for an acetabular labral tear?

An acetabular labral tear affects up to 22 percent of athletes who report groin pain. It’s more common among athletes whose sports and activities involve rotating and twisting leg motions, such as:

•   golfers
•   soccer players
•   hockey players
•   ballet dancers
•   football players (especially kickers)
•   runners and sprinters

Also at risk for acetabular labral tears are children with pre-existing hip problems, such as:

•   Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease
•   Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)
•   Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

Patients with hip impingement (femoral acetabular impingement or FAI) may have acetabular labral tears.

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