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.
Background: the 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 cup-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:
- 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.
How does Boston Children’s Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program diagnose labral tears?
Our hip specialists meet with you and review your medical and physical history (including family history of hip problems). The next step is a thorough physical exam. Your doctor will check range of motion in your hip to look for a loss of internal rotation of the hip, which often signals a problem within the joint.
She may order imaging exams to confirm the diagnosis and location of labral tear. Most imaging exams, including MRI, can be performed on the same day you see your doctor. Boston Children’s hip team is a pioneer in the use of advanced MRI technology to guide more precise diagnosis and treatment. Our hip specialists make sure to find the cause of the acetabular labral tear, including an underlying hip condition.
How does Boston Children’s care for patients with labral tears?
Boston Children’s hip specialists are global leaders in hip care and offer unique expertise caring for teens and young adults with hip conditions. Although we’re recognized for our expertise in treating patients with complex labral tears, we offer the same level of care and attention to every patient.
Some labral tears are treated non-surgically with pain medication and physical therapy. Other tears may require minimally invasive (arthroscopic) surgery.
What new research is Boston Children’s doing on hip conditions?
Boston Children’s pioneering research helps answer the most pressing questions in pediatric orthopedics and provides patients with the most innovative care available.
Our orthopedic research team includes:
- full-time basic scientists
- 28 clinical investigators
- a team of research coordinators and statisticians
Current studies include:
- ongoing studies to follow patients who have had various treatments for slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) and hip dysplasia
- a study investigating the effectiveness new surgical treatments for femoral acetabular impingement (FAI)
- a study of the long-term outcomes after Bernese periacetabular osteotomy (Bernese PAO) for hip dysplasia
- a study of delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) to assess early arthritis in dysplastic hips: Read more.
- A study of perfusion MRI as a predictor for reduced blood flow and cell death after treatment for hip dislocation. Read more.
Boston Children’s Child and Young Adult Hip Perseveration Program is a founding member of the ANCHOR (Academic Network of Conservational Hip Outcomes Research). ANCHOR was founded in 2006 to study surgical outcomes in teens and young adults with hip dysplasia. The goal is improved patient care, including quality of life, overall health, and high levels of activity.
How does Boston Children’s support my family?
Boston Children’s supports families in many ways.
Teen Advisory Committee
To help teenagers take a more proactive role in their care and to have their needs recognized, Boston Children’s developed the Teen Advisory Committee. The group—made up of current patients, ages 14 to 21—serves as a team of peers who can listen to other patients’ needs and ensure that their voices are heard.
Center for Families
You may find a hospital visit stressful. We offer services to make your child's—and your own—hospital experience as pleasant as possible. Visit the Center for Families for all you need to know about:
- getting to Boston Children's
- navigating the hospital experience
- resources that are available for your family
The hip care team at Boston Children’s can connect you with resources to help you and your family cope with a labral tear, including:
- patient education: From doctor's appointments to treatment to follow-up, our nurses and physical therapists will walk you through your child's diagnosis, surgery and recovery. After you return home, we'll help you coordinate care and support.
- parent-to-parent: Do you want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for an acetabular labral tear? Our Orthopedic Center can often put you in touch with other families who've been through the same experience that you and your child are facing.
- faith-based support: If you're in need of spiritual support, we'll connect you with the Boston Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy—representing Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and other faith traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your hospital experience.
- social work: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness and dealing with financial issues.