Sports can put significant stress on an athlete’s joints. A common injury for athletes is a hip labral tear (commonly associated with a condition called femoroacetabular impingement), which is usually caused by the excessive stress athletes can put on their hip joints in conjunction with bony abnormalities.
What is a Hip Labral Tear?
A hip labral tear is an injury to the soft elastic tissue or cartilage around the hip joint. The hip joint is made of the “ball” at end of the thigh bone, also called the femur. This ball fits into the bowl-shaped socket in the pelvic bone, also called the acetabulum. Cartilage lines the socket to keep movement smooth and the joint cushioned. The labrum also helps to hold the ball of your femur in place and act as a seal for the joint.
Symptoms vary and can range in severity, including:
- Locking or clicking of hip
- Sharp, deep, disabling hip pain
- Hip instability
- Limited range of motion
- Tenderness to touch
- Groin, buttock, or thigh pain
“A lot of times people will describe a hip labral tear as a hip flexor injury, and they think it is a strain to one of the flexors in their hip joint,” said Orthopaedic Surgeon Jeffrey Klauser. “It’s actually an injury to the hip joint, and rather than a strain, it’s a condition where patients have a congenital prominence in the bone in the ball and socket joint in their hip. When they flex their hip repetitively over and over again – as often seen in athletes – that can tear the soft tissue, or the cartilage, that surrounds the socket in the hip.”
Treating a hip labral tear is a new and budding area in orthopaedic surgery, Dr. Klauser says. Years ago, the main treatment option was an open procedure that required a large incision and significant rehabilitation.
“We’ve really come a long way recently in terms of improved technology and treatment options both surgically and non-surgically,” Dr. Klauser said. “If the tear requires surgery, we can now treat this injury through an arthroscope, which is basically three little incisions. Where normally treatment would be a very large incision and ugly scar, this is quite minimally invasive and the patients recover very quickly.”
If a patient needs surgery, they will require physical therapy to regain their prior level of function. Therapy will include strength exercises and a plan to increase the stress the hip joint can withstand over a period of time.
“The great news is we can make you better,” Dr. Klauser said. “Traditionally hip pain in an athlete – especially a young athlete – was a very scary area for orthopedic surgeons because we just simply didn’t have the means to treat it. Now, we can get patients back to doing the things that they want to do very rapidly. It’s usually around four months post-operatively that we can get patients back on the ice, the court or the field, and they’re doing great.”
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