hip specialties

About Labral Tear

A labral tear in the hip involves injury to the labrum, a ring of soft tissue that surrounds the socket of the hip joint. The labrum provides stability to the joint while also allowing flexibility and motion.

Labral tears are caused by trauma, structural abnormalities and repetitive motion. Damage can lead to labral degeneration, detachment and tears. Degeneration is caused by too much stress over a long period of time and is more common than the other tears. Detachment occurs when the labrum becomes detached from the socket.

Labral tear is an acute injury and usually occurs in sports activities. The surgeons at the University Orthopaedic Center are here to help maintain the health of your hip and try to prevent further damage and deterioration.

Acetabular Labral Tears

The labrum is the gristle-like lining around the rim of the hip socket (acetabulum). It helps to stabilize the joint and maintain proper hip joint mechanics. A tear of the labrum usually causes sharp pain in the front of the hip, sometimes shooting down the thigh. A catching or giving way sensation in the hip may also occur.

Symptoms usually occur when the hip is changing position. If the labrum tears, it is usually because of an underlying anatomic abnormality of the hip. Much less commonly, a twisting injury or injuries can tear the labrum. Since a torn labrum not only causes pain and instability but also disturbs function of the hip and predisposes to arthritis, a labral tear is an indication for treatment both to prevent arthritis and to improve symptoms.

MRI scans frequently diagnose labral tears. Labral tears may also be found on an MRI that are not giving a patient symptoms. There are also different kinds of tears. (See below.) Though hip arthroscopy usually can allow symptom-relieving trimming of the torn labrum in a minimally invasive way, if the torn labrum occurred because of an underlying anatomic abnormality in the hip, usually the underlying anatomic hip abnormality is corrected first.

Developmental hip abnormalities predisposing to labral tears include hip dysplasia, Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, and slipped capital femoral epiphysis. Hip arthroscopy is highly successful in relieving symptoms of a labral tear and improving hip function, as long as the anatomic problem is corrected. It is more difficult to correct bony abnormalities through a scope and therefore more significant abnormalities may require an open surgery.

Types of Labral Tears

Labral degeneration is seen in hips where the labrum has seen too much stress over a long period of time (one to five years). The labrum frequently has damage that can include fraying, overall breakdown over a large area, and/or a cyst forming inside it. In classic dysplasia the labrum frequently thickens and then breaks down. In retroversion the labrum frequently thins and gets frayed.

Labral detachment is very commonly seen with FAI as a result of the femur forcing its way into the socket. The labrum can also frequently be detached from the rim of the acetabulum and the underlying articular cartilage.

Labral tear, which is more uncommon for us to see within the substance of the labrum; this type of tear can do well with hip arthroscopy if there is no underlying bony abnormalities.

Contact Us


Stephen K. Aoki, MD

Patient Rating:


4.8 out of 5

Dr. Stephen K. Aoki, Associate Professor, specializes in hip and knee sports medicine. His clinical practice and research focus on both adult and pediatric sports injuries. Current interests include hip preservation/femoroacetabular impingement in the young adult, hip arthroscopy, the pediatric and adolescent athlete, ACL tears in children, patella... Read More

Jill A. Erickson, PA-C

Jill Erickson has worked with our Adult Reconstruction Surgeons since 1999, and with Christopher Peters, M.D. exclusively since 2003, with Joint Replacements as well as Hip Preservation procedures. She is an integral member of our University of Utah Center for Hip & Knee Reconstruction team and coordinates our research, surgical and clinical ou... Read More

Travis G. Maak, MD

Patient Rating:


4.8 out of 5

Dr. Travis Maak’s practice is focused on sports medicine and arthroscopic treatment of the hip, knee and shoulder. He is the Head Orthopaedic Team Physician for the Utah Jazz and Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah. Dr. Maak is originally from Salt Lake City and a graduate from Stanford University. He co... Read More

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