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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

Hip Labral Tear

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(608) 263-8850

(800) 323-8942


Health Information

Hip Injuries


For Providers

Hip Labral Tear Referral Guidelines

UW Health Orthopedics and Rehabilitation in Madison, Wisconsin provides comprehensive treatment for hip labral tears.
About the Labrum
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The labrum is a circular cartilage structure that surrounds the hip socket. Its function is to seal the hip joint, distribute joint stress and enhance stability. That stability permits normal physical function like walking.
What causes labral tears?
Active athletes are at risk for labral tears because of the extremes of motion imposed by training and competition. The wear and tear of everyday movements like walking and bending in certain ways can contribute to labral tears, as well. Current research is focusing on exploring whether people with abnormally-shaped hips (e.g., hip dysplasia or femoroacetabular impingement) are at greater risk for labral tears.
Signs and Symptoms
Labral tears may cause a sharp catching pain, popping, and a sensation of locking of the hip. Most people with this injury experience more subtle, dull pain. Patients describe a deep discomfort in the anterior groin or deep within the buttocks.

Treatment: Non-Surgical


For labral tears that do not require surgery, physical therapists or athletic trainers work with patients on developing a conservative rehabilitation plan, starting with a comprehensive examination to determine factors contributing to hip pain.


During rehabilitation, activity modification or rest from sports activities may be recommended to decrease stress on the hip joint. The rehabilitation provider will design a customized exercise program to address muscle imbalances, pelvic position and postural and movement patterns which can put increased demands on the hip joint.


Treatment may include:

  • Gentle hip joint mobilizations for pain relief
  • Stretching and range-of-motion exercises
  • Exercises to increase hip muscle strength
Although most labral tears are unlikely to fully heal due to lack of blood supply, conservative treatment can reduce symptoms and pain, and progressive exercise programs may make a return to sports activities possible.

Surgical Treatment: Hip Arthroscopy


For hip labral tears that do not respond to non-surgical treatment, hip arthroscopy, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia, may be required. The common course of the procedure includes:

  • Placing the hip in traction to open up the hip joint
  • Making an incision in the hip joint to insert a camera that displays the inside of the hip on a television monitor
  • Making two or three other incisions to insert the surgical instruments used for excising labral tears and repairing or removing loose bodies
  • Making two additional incisions through which the surgeon may remove the torn piece of labrum or repair the torn cartilage

Animation: Hip Arthroscopy


Post-operative Rehabilitation
After arthroscopic hip surgery, rehabilitation with a physical therapist or athletic trainer focuses on regaining full hip joint motion, strength and movement control. The rehabilitation provider identifies and addresses any predisposing factors to hip injury and discusses strategies to prevent future injury.
General points about rehabilitation:
  • Patients can expect to use crutches for about two weeks after surgery or longer depending on the type of surgery performed.
  • Rehabilitation will be progressive as patients meet certain criteria and move toward a return to full activities, including sports.
  • Return to high-impact sports will take eight to 12 weeks.
  • Rehabilitation exercises may include muscle strengthening and range-of-motion activities, and are started soon after surgery and according to the patient's tolerance.