The acetabular labrum is a ring of specialized cartilage resting on the edge of the bony socket (acetabulum) of the hip joint. The function of the labrum in the hip is primarily to help lubricate the joint surface with synovial fluid and provide a “suction seal” to the hip joint. Tears of the acetabular labrum are more commonly diagnosed now because our ability to recognize the symptoms of a labral tear and imaging studies have both improved.
Hip labral tears can be due to a single acute traumatic event. Acute labral tears usually result from a sports injury, fall, or accident. They are commonly associated with sudden, twisting maneuvers that cause immediate pain in the hip.
More commonly, however, labral tears are degenerative in nature. Degenerative labral tears are chronic injuries that occur as a result of repetitive wear and tear over time and can be seen in the early stages of hip arthritis. The most common cause of degenerative labral tears is a condition known as femoroacetabular impingement.
Treatment for labral tears consists of activity modification, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. Often, an injection of steroid into the hip joint can help relieve the pain from a labral tear. If these measures are unsuccessful, the labrum can be repaired through an arthroscopic procedure.