Labral Tear of the Hip: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options


Hip pain can have a significant impact to your running and one common cause is a labral tear, which occurs when the labrum, a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint, is damaged or torn. Labral tears frequently occur among young athletes who might have pre-existing hip anatomy concerns like hip dysplasia or impingement.

The labrum plays a crucial role in stabilizing the hip joint and providing cushioning to the bones. Injury or overuse of the hip joint can cause the labrum to tear, leading to pain and other symptoms. There are several potential causes of a labral tear, including trauma from a fall or accident, repetitive hip movements, structural abnormalities, and degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis.


What is a labral tear of the hip?

hip labral tearA labral tear of the hip is a condition characterized by damage to the labrum, a piece of cartilage that lines and supports the hip joint. The labrum acts as a seal, holding the femur securely in place within the socket of the hip joint. It also helps to distribute the load evenly across the joint, providing stability and reducing friction. When the labrum is torn, it can cause pain and other symptoms.

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the head of the femur forming the ball and the acetabulum of the pelvis forming the socket. The labrum is a fibrocartilaginous structure that surrounds the acetabulum, deepening the socket and providing additional stability. A labral tear can occur anywhere along the rim of the labrum, and the severity of the tear can vary.


Symptoms of a labral tear

The symptoms of a labral tear can vary depending on the location and severity of the tear. Common symptoms include pain in the hip or groin area, clicking or locking sensations, limited range of motion, and a feeling of instability. The pain may be sharp or dull, and it may worsen with certain movements or activities, such as walking, running, or twisting.

In some cases, a labral tear may cause a catching or locking sensation in the hip joint. This occurs when a loose or torn piece of the labrum gets caught between the femur and the acetabulum, causing a temporary blockage of movement. Limited range of motion is also a common symptom, as the torn labrum can restrict the smooth gliding motion of the hip joint. Some individuals may also experience a feeling of instability or a sense that the hip is going to give way.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of other hip conditions, so a proper diagnosis is essential. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.


Causes of a labral tear

A labral tear can have several potential causes. Traumatic incidents such as sudden and forceful movement of the hip joint, leading to damage or detachment of the labrum. Repetitive hip movements, such as those seen in running, can also contribute to the development of a labral tear.

Excessive running without adequate strength training can also be the culprit. It’s crucial for the muscles around the hip—such as the glutes, quads, abs, and hamstrings—to possess the strength to absorb the forces generated during running. Without sufficient strength and motor control in these areas, there’s a heightened risk of transferring excessive forces to the labrum and the joint as a whole, increasing the likelihood of injury.

Structural abnormalities in the hip joint can also increase the risk of a labral tear. Conditions such as hip dysplasia, femoroacetabular impingement, and hip joint hypermobility can create an uneven distribution of forces within the joint, placing additional stress on the labrum. Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis can also weaken the labrum over time, making it more susceptible to tearing.


Diagnosing a labral tear

Diagnosing a labral tear typically involves a combination of physical examination, medical history review, and imaging studies. During the physical examination, a healthcare professional will assess your range of motion, strength, and stability of the hip joint. They may also perform specific tests to reproduce your symptoms and assess the integrity of the labrum.

Medical history review is essential to understand the onset and progression of symptoms, as well as any prior injuries or conditions that may be contributing factors. Imaging studies, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans, may be ordered to visualize the hip joint and confirm the presence of a labral tear. These imaging modalities can provide detailed information about the location, size, and severity of the tear, helping to guide treatment decisions.


Treatment options for a labral tear

The treatment options for a labral tear depend on the severity and location of the tear, as well as the individual’s overall health and lifestyle. In some cases, non-surgical treatment options may be sufficient to alleviate symptoms and promote healing. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair or remove the torn portion of the labrum.

Non-surgical treatment options

Non-surgical treatment options for a labral tear may include:

  1. Rest and activity modification: Limiting activities that worsen symptoms and allowing the hip joint to rest and heal.
  2. Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches to improve hip joint stability, strength, and range of motion.  Runners need to make sure the muscles and tendons are absorbing the majority of the impact, not the joint.  Strengthening the glutes, quads, abs, and hamstrings is very important as they can absorb the forces generated during running.
  3. Pain management: Over-the-counter or prescription medications to manage pain and inflammation.
  4. Injection therapies: Corticosteroid injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to reduce pain and promote healing.
    • An injection of cortisone (steroid) cannot facilitate the healing of a torn hip labrum. While it may provide temporary relief from hip pain for days, weeks, or even months, its benefits are not long-lasting. Importantly, relying on cortisone for pain relief might lead some patients to overuse the compromised hip labrum, potentially causing additional damage over time.
    • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy presents a natural approach to address labral tears. The “inflammation stage” to heal an injury ranges from three to six months before it becomes chronic as the body ceases its healing efforts. PRP therapy serves as a means to reignite and amplify the healing process.
      • A PRP injection release growth factors, triggering an inflammatory response that kickstarts the healing process. These growth factors enhance blood flow and aid in the development of new soft tissue. Additionally, they contribute to the restoration of tendon and ligament proteins, and the reinforcement of cartilage. Particularly beneficial for tendons, which have limited blood supply, PRP has the potential to expedite the healing process and, in some cases, prolong the need for surgery or allow you to treat a labral tear withouth surgery.

These non-surgical approaches are often the first line of treatment, especially for less severe tears or individuals who are not good candidates for surgery. A healthcare professional will typically develop a personalized treatment plan based on the individual’s specific needs and goals.


Surgical treatment options

In cases where non-surgical treatments are ineffective or the tear is severe, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the location and severity of the tear, as well as the individual’s overall health and lifestyle.

Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique commonly used to treat labral tears. During the procedure, small incisions are made around the hip joint, and a tiny camera called an arthroscope is inserted to visualize the joint. Specialized surgical instruments are then used to repair or remove the torn portion of the labrum. This approach allows for a quicker recovery and less post-operative pain compared to traditional open surgery.

In some cases, a labral reconstruction may be necessary. This involves using a graft, typically from another part of the body or a donor, to replace the damaged labrum. This procedure is more complex and may require a longer recovery period.

Hip labral tear pain treatment with PRP Prolotherapy as a non-surgical or post-surgical option




Reducing the risk of labral tears

While it may not be possible to prevent all labral tears, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight places additional stress on the hip joint, increasing the risk of injury.
  2. Warm-up and cool-down: Before engaging in physical activity, warm up the muscles and joints to prepare them for exercise. Afterward, cool down with stretches to promote flexibility and reduce muscle tension.
  3. Use proper form and technique: When participating in sports or activities that involve hip movements, use proper form and technique to minimize stress on the hip joint.
  4. Gradually increase intensity: When starting a new exercise program or increasing your activity level, do so gradually to allow your body to adapt and avoid overuse injuries.
  5. Cross-training: Engaging in a variety of activities can help prevent overuse injuries, including labral tears. Incorporate low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, into your routine to give your hip joint a break from repetitive motions.
  6. Listen to your body: If you experience any hip pain or discomfort, especially during or after physical activity, take it as a sign to rest and seek appropriate medical attention if needed.

By taking these preventive measures and seeking early intervention for any hip pain or symptoms, you can reduce your risk of developing a labral tear and maintain optimal hip joint health.


In conclusion, a labral tear of the hip can be a painful and debilitating condition, impacting your daily activities and overall quality of life. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options is crucial in seeking appropriate care and managing the condition effectively. Whether through conservative approaches or surgical intervention, the goal is to alleviate pain, restore function, and prevent further damage to the hip joint. By taking preventive measures and seeking timely medical attention, you can reduce the risk of labral tears and maintain optimal hip joint health for years to come.