What is a hip labral tear?

The hip is shaped like a ball-and-socket. The socket is called the acetabulum, and the ball is the femoral head, located at the top of the femur (leg bone). A hip labral tear is an injury to the labrum, the soft tissue that covers the acetabulum.

The labrum helps the femoral head move smoothly within the socket. It lets your hip move without problems or pain. It also serves as a seal, keeping the ball and socket together but not touching.

What causes a hip labral tear?

Hip labral tears can be caused by many things, including the following:

  • Structural ailments: Conditions that cause abnormal hip movement can also lead to hip labral tears. In femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), the femoral head doesn’t fit into the socket properly. This imperfect fit can cause long-lasting groin pain and movement limitations. This is the most common cause of labral tears. FAI can affect people at any age. Without treatment, it can result in osteoarthritis in some patients.
  • Injury: Trauma to the hip can lead to a hip labral tear. This can happen to people who play certain sports that have repetitive and high-impact movements, such as ice hockey, football, soccer and golf.
  • Degenerative health conditions: Osteoarthritis is a chronic (long-term) wearing down of the cartilage between the joints. As cartilage slowly erodes over time, it becomes more prone to tearing. Older age and excessive weight can increase a person’s risk for developing osteoarthritis. People with osteoarthritis commonly have pain and stiffness in more than one joint (the hip and knee, for example).

What are the symptoms of a hip labral tear?

The symptoms of a hip labral tear include:

  • Hip pain or stiffness
  • Pain in the groin or buttocks area
  • A clicking or locking sound in the hip area when you move
  • Feeling unsteady on your feet

If you have a hip labral tear, hip pain or discomfort may get worse when you bend, move or rotate the hip, or exercise or play sports. It’s also possible to have a hip labral tear with no symptoms at all.

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