A hip (acetabular) labral tear is damage to cartilage and tissue in the hip socket. In some cases, it causes no symptoms. In others it causes pain in the groin. It can make you feel like your leg is "catching" or "clicking" in the socket as you move it. Over time, labral tears in the hip may cause permanent damage to the joint.
The labrum is a band of tough cartilage and connective tissue that lines the rim of the hip socket, or acetabulum. It cushions the joint of the hip bone, preventing the bones from directly rubbing against each other. The labrum also helps keep the leg bone in place and increases stability of the joint.
The labrum can tear for many reasons. Some people get a torn labrum from falls or car accidents. Sports that require regular rotation of the hip -- like golf, soccer, hockey, and ballet -- increase the risk. So do running and sprinting.
But almost 75% cases of torn acetabular labrum have no known direct cause. Instead, these tears may develop gradually. Labral tears in the hip have been linked to osteoarthritis. However, it's not clear if they contribute to its development or are a symptom of it.
Labral tears of the hip are more common in women. They also occur more often in people who have abnormalities of the hip structure, like hip dysplasia and other conditions.
In recent years, experts have found that acetabular labral tears are much more common than once thought. Studies show that up to 22% of athletes who complain of groin pain have a labral tear in the hip.