The labrum of the hip is a ring of cartilage on the edge of the socket of the hip joint. It functions as a "gasket" and provides a suction seal to the joint which is crucial to retaining a pressurized fluid layer that distributes compressive loads, thereby reducing stress and strain of the articular cartilage. It is also important for augmenting hip stability by increasing socket volume and load transmission.

A tear to the labrum, known as a hip labral tear or acetabular labrum tear, can cause pain in the hip as well as affect the overall movement and stability of the hip joint.

Common Causes and Symptoms of a Labral Tear

There are multiple ways a tear in the labrum can occur, including:

  • Hip degeneration: Osteoarthritis, which is a type of arthritis, can cause a tear in the labrum to form because it wears down the cartilage of the joint.
  • Repetitive motion: A labral tear can occur due to repetitive motions that cause wear and tear on the hip joint.
  • Sports: Athletes that participate in sports, such as dance, soccer, and hockey, can develop a labral tear due to twisting and pivoting motions.
  • Structural abnormalities: A labral tear can be due to an abnormality, such as femoroacetabular impingement.
  • Traumatic event: A car accident, fall, or another traumatic event that causes trauma to the hip can create a labral tear.

If you have suffered a tear to your labrum, you may be experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • A locking sensation in your hip joint
  • Hip joint pain
  • Hip pain that is in the front of or "deep inside" the hip joint, but this hip pain can also present in other areas
  • Hip pain that increases when walking
  • Instability
  • Limited range of motion in your hip joint
  • Pain in your hip or groin
  • Stiffness
  • Your hip joint catches when moving your leg

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, our hip and labral tear expert, Dr. Austin Chen, will perform a physical and diagnostic exam to see if a labral tear is the cause of your hip pain or if it is due to another hip injury or condition.

Nonsurgical and Surgical Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed with a labral tear, there are various treatments that can be used to repair the injury. Our hip and labral tear expert, Dr. Austin Chen, is dedicated to trying nonsurgical treatments first, such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, or rest and ice, and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for your tear and needs.

Some patients can experience relief with nonsurgical treatments. However, sometimes the labral tear and hip pain do not improve with conservative treatment options or the patient's hip pain or tear is too severe. If this is the case for you, surgery may be recommended as the best option.

If surgery is recommended for you, rest assured that Dr. Chen has undergone extensive surgical training and is highly skilled in performing surgeries to treat labral tears.

Labral Repair and Labral Reconstruction Surgery

For both of these surgeries, Dr. Chen utilizes a minimally invasive arthroscopic technique, where he makes three to four small incisions instead of a large one, like in an open surgery. During the surgery, he inserts an arthroscope, or small camera, into one of the incisions. The arthroscope will display pictures of the hip joint onto a nearby monitor, providing him with an exact location of the tear as well as the ability to guide special surgical instruments to repair it.

If a labral repair is indicated, Dr. Chen will reattach the torn labrum to the rim of the acetabulum, or socket, using specialized suture anchors.

However, if the labrum is severely damaged, reconstruction surgery may be necessary. During this surgical procedure, Dr. Chen will remove the damaged part of the labrum and reconstruct it using a tissue graft.


Following your labral repair or labral reconstruction surgery, you will be on crutches for a few weeks after surgery to minimize weight-bearing. You will also wear a brace to help allow the labrum to heal. A postoperative follow-up appointment will be scheduled for two weeks after your surgery. Since no two patients are the same, regular follow-up appointments with Dr. Chen are necessary to monitor your progress and formulate the best possible recovery plan for your specific needs.

Postoperative care and rehabilitation are very important to the recovery process as well as the success of the surgery. You will begin a physical therapy regimen soon after surgery to help improve the strength and flexibility in your hip. Most patients can return to normal physical activities within four to six months.

BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine's Labral Tear Expert

At BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine, we are dedicated to providing our patients with the highest level of hip care possible. Our labral tear expert, Dr. Austin Chen, is a board-certified, dual-fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon in Colorado who specializes in treating labral tears as well as in hip arthroscopy. Having undergone extensive training, Dr. Chen is highly skilled in labral repair and reconstruction and uses minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to treat labral tears and get patients back to a life in motion.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our labral tear expert, Dr. Austin Chen, call 303.449.2730 or request an appointment online.

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