What is a hip labral tear?
A healthy hip is supported by a ring of cartilage, called a labrum, which acts a seal designed to keep the ball at the top of the thighbone securely in place in the hip socket. When the labrum suffers damage due to physical injury or structural abnormalities it can tear resulting in a hip labral tear.
Hip labral tears can happen to anyone from accidents such as a fall or injury that leads to dislocation of the hip, but are far more common in athletes who are required to perform a lot of repetitive motions, especially in the form of cutting. Those who play football, basketball and soccer are most at risk but tears have also been known to occur in ice hockey, baseball, wrestling and gymnastics.
Another common cause of hip labral tears is a condition called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). FAI is when the bones in the hip are misshapen and rub against each other causing the gradual deterioration of the labrum.
When should I see a doctor?
A hip labral tear is not necessarily an excruciatingly painful injury and oftentimes the initial tear occurs without the person even knowing it. Pain is typically felt when the injured person is playing a sport and tries to use their hips as they normally do. As the tear worsens, pain can be felt doing normal activities. Interestingly, pain isn’t necessarily felt in the hip, but can present as groin pain, especially in the crease where the hip meets the leg. If this type of pain is felt during activity it can indicate a hip labral tear. The location of the pain is often misleading and steers people away from focusing on their hip.
Another hurdle to recognizing one has a serious problem is the type of pain can be easily dismissed as a sprain. The key things to look for are any symptoms that are considered abnormal to a mild sprain, including significant swelling, bruising and persistent pain. Also, any pain that doesn’t respond to rest and icing is indicative of a more serious problem.
As with any persistent pain, it’s important to see one’s doctor. If the pain is in the groin/hip area and occurs when playing sport, or during basic activities, it is best to consult a certified orthopedic hip arthroscopy doctor. He or she will most likely order tests such as X-Rays or an MRI to determine whether or not the labrum is torn. Depending on the severity of the injury, the doctor may prescribe rest, anti-inflammatory medications or physical therapy. If those treatment options are not sufficient, hip arthroscopy surgery may be necessary.
Hip arthroscopy surgery is a minimally invasive form or surgery in which the surgeon will insert a fiber-optic camera and surgical tools into a small incision in the hip. From there, the surgeon will repair or remove parts of the torn labrum.
Dr. Dean K. Matsuda is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and Director of DISC’s Hip Arthroscopy Center of Excellence. A true pioneer in his field, Dr. Matsuda has invented several innovative surgeries that have greatly improved the treatment options for athletes with hip problems. He has also developed techniques enabling him to treat severe conditions such as global pincer FAI and posterior cam FAI using outpatient arthroscopic techniques.