Hip Labral Tears

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Dr Kau Chung Yuan (许医生)


MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)


What are Hip Labral Tears?

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket structure that allows for a wide range of motion. A hip labral tear refers to the damage or tearing of this labrum, a ring of cartilaginous tissue at the junction where the ball (femoral head) meets the socket (acetabulum) of the hip bone. These tears can occur due to various reasons, ranging from structural abnormalities to physical activity and trauma.

Causes of Hip Labral Tears

Hip labral tears can result from a variety of factors, which can be broadly categorised into structural causes, traumatic causes, and degenerative causes.

Structural Causes

  • Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI): This is a condition where the bones of the hip joint are abnormally shaped. Over time, the misshapen bones can cause damage to the labrum.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A condition where the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thighbone. This partial coverage can lead to more stress on the labrum.

Traumatic Causes

  • Sports Injuries: Athletes, particularly those involved in sports that require repetitive twisting or pivoting movements, are at a higher risk of hip labral tears.
  • Accidents: Falls or direct impacts to the hip area can lead to immediate tearing of the labrum.

Degenerative Causes

  • Age-Related Wear and Tear: Over time, the labrum can become more susceptible to tearing due to the natural ageing process.
  • Repetitive Motion: Jobs or activities that involve repetitive hip movements can lead to the gradual wearing down of the labrum.


The symptoms of a hip labral tear can vary depending on the severity and location of the tear. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the Hip or Groin Area
    This is often the primary symptom. The pain may be sharp, especially during certain movements like bending, twisting, or squatting.
  • Stiffness or Limited Range of Motion
    The hip joint may feel stiff, and there might be a reduced range of motion.
  • A Catching or Clicking Sensation
    Some individuals may experience a feeling of catching, locking, or clicking in the hip joint.
  • Discomfort During Prolonged Sitting or Activities
    Pain or discomfort can increase during prolonged periods of sitting or after prolonged activities.
  • Radiating Pain
    In some cases, the pain may radiate to other areas like the back, buttock, or thigh.

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Diagnosing a hip labral tear involves a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging tests. Typically, the diagnostic process includes:

Clinical Evaluation

The first step involves a detailed medical history and a physical examination. The orthopaedic surgeon will ask about symptoms, activities that may cause pain, and any history of hip problems or injuries.

Imaging Tests
  • X-rays: These can show any abnormalities in the bones of the hip joint, such as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) or dysplasia.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI is more effective in visualising soft tissues like the labrum. A special type of MRI called an MR arthrogram, involves injecting a contrast dye into the hip joint to provide clearer images of the labrum.
Diagnostic Injection

Sometimes, a local anaesthetic is injected into the hip joint. If the pain is significantly relieved, it suggests that the problem is within the joint.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatments are often the first line of management for hip labral tears, especially in cases where the tear is not severe. Common non-surgical treatments include:

  • Physical Therapy: Customised exercises can help to strengthen the muscles around the hip joint, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Physical therapy may also include techniques to improve range of motion and reduce symptoms.
  • Activity Modification: Patients may be advised to avoid activities that exacerbate their symptoms. This includes modifying both daily activities and exercise routines.
  • Pain Management:
    • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These medications can help reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers may be recommended for managing discomfort.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation. These are typically used in conjunction with physical therapy.
  • Assistive Devices: For some patients, using devices like canes or crutches can help reduce stress on the hip joint and alleviate pain during movement.

Surgical Treatment Options

When non-surgical treatments fail to provide adequate relief, or in cases of severe hip labral tears, surgery may be recommended. The primary surgical option is:

Arthroscopic Surgery
  • Minimally Invasive Technique: This is a minimally invasive surgery where small incisions are made around the hip, and a camera (arthroscope) and surgical instruments are inserted to perform the procedure.
  • Repair or Removal: Depending on the extent of the tear, the orthopaedic surgeon may either repair the torn labrum or remove the damaged part of the labrum.
  • Addressing Underlying Issues: If structural abnormalities such as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) are contributing to the tear, these may also be corrected during the surgery.

Dr. Kau Chung Yuan

MBBS (S’pore)

MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)

Dr Kau (许医生) is a Fellowship trained Orthopaedic Surgeon with a subspecialty interest in Hip and Knee surgery and has been in practice for more than 15 years.

He is experienced in trauma and fracture management, sports injuries, and joint replacement surgery.

  • Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, Orthopaedics (FRCS, Edin) 2014
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedics), Singapore (MMed) 2013
  • Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (MRCS, Ire) 2009
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS, Singapore) 2004

Prevention Measures

Preventing hip labral tears involves addressing the factors that increase the risk of injury. Key measures include:

  • Maintaining Good Physical Condition
    Regular exercise to strengthen the muscles around the hip and improve flexibility can help reduce the risk of tears.
  • Proper Technique in Sports and Exercise
    Using correct form and technique during physical activities, especially in sports that involve twisting and pivoting, is essential.
  • Avoiding Repetitive Stress
    Being mindful of activities that put repetitive stress on the hips and taking breaks or alternating tasks can help prevent overuse injuries.
  • Hip-Friendly Activities
    Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling, puts less strain on the hip joint.
  • Ergonomic Workplace and Home Environments
    Ensuring that work and home environments support healthy hip positioning can help reduce strain.
  • Regular Check-Ups for Athletes
    Athletes, particularly those in high-impact sports, should have regular check-ups to ensure that any potential issues are identified and addressed early.

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Patient Feedback

Ethan Chan
Dr. Kau is an exemplary doctor who is experienced in his field and is very patient with his patients. He walked me through the details of my knee condition and addressed all my concerns. Thanks to Dr. Kau, I had a better understanding of my ACL and MCL injury and the various treatment options available. His advice and treatment have been very valuable to me.
Ming Lee Chua
Dr Kau was very careful and explained clearly the surgery procedures. After surgery, the care while I was in hospital was closely monitored and he even came during weekends! The hip so far has recovered and healed. His ‘predictions’ of when what can happen are so accurate. Trust him.
Teo Pek Suan Diana
I had a very successful total hip replacement done by Dr Kau 4 years ago. 4 months after the operation I was back walking, cycling and swimming. The beautiful job gave me much confidence Dr Kau is most professional and has such great doctor patient communication.

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can hip labral tears heal on their own?

    While minor labral tears can sometimes show improvement with rest, physical therapy, and other non-surgical treatments, most labral tears do not heal completely on their own. The labrum in the hip has a limited blood supply, which impedes the body’s natural healing process.

    In cases where the tear is small and pain is manageable, non-surgical treatments may effectively manage symptoms, but they do not typically result in a fully healed labrum.

    How long is the recovery after hip labral tear surgery?

    The recovery period after hip labral tear surgery can vary significantly based on the individual’s overall health, the specific surgical procedure performed, and the severity of the tear. Generally, recovery can take anywhere from several weeks to a few months.

    Are there any long-term effects of a hip labral tear?

    If a hip labral tear remains untreated, it can lead to several long-term effects. The most common is persistent pain and discomfort, particularly during activities that put a strain on the hip joint. Untreated labral tears can contribute to hip joint instability and an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis in the hip joint.

    Can I return to sports after a hip labral tear?

    Returning to sports after a hip labral tear depends on several factors, including the severity of the tear, the type of treatment received, and the specific demands of the sport. Athletes are typically advised to return to their sport gradually, and only after they have regained full strength and mobility in the hip.

    The timeline for returning to sports can vary, but with appropriate treatment and rehabilitation, many athletes can return to their previous level of sporting activity.