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4 Things Swimmers Need To Know About Hip Labral Tears

by Hector Holland

While swimming is a low-impact sport, swimmers can suffer a wide variety of painful sports injuries. Hip labral tears are one of these injuries. Here are four things swimmers need to know about hip labral tears.

What are hip labral tears?

Your labrum is a ring of cartilage that covers your acetabulum (hip socket). Its role is to keep your hip joint stable and lubricated, spread pressure evenly across your socket and absorb shocks. This cartilage can become torn, and when that happens, the result is a hip labral tear.

What are the signs of hip labral tears?

If you experience a hip labral tear, you'll feel pain in the front of your hip and around your groin. Some people also experience pain in their buttocks region, though this is less common. This pain has been described as a constant, dull pain that develops gradually. The pain gets worse with activity, so you won't be able to swim. Even tasks like walking short distances or sitting for more than half an hour can trigger pain.

Most people with hip labral tears walk with a limp and need to hold onto the railing to climb stairs. A clicking sensation from within the hip is also common, though your hip may also lock up or give out underneath you.

Since many different injuries can cause these symptoms, your doctor will need to perform specialized tests like magnetic resonance arthrography or arthroscopy to diagnose a hip labral tear.

How does swimming cause hip labral tears?

Hip labral tears are a repetitive stress injury. Every time you kick in the pool, your labrum cushions your bones and absorbs the stress. If you train for hours a day and don't take enough time off to rest, the constant kicking weakens your labrum and allows it to tear. This is why it's important to take regular rest days, even when you're training for an important race.

How are hip labral tears treated?

Conservative treatments like physiotherapy can be used to treat hip labral tears. The goal of physiotherapy is to regain strength, range of motion and stability in your hip through a supervised exercise program.

In addition to physiotherapy, your doctor may recommend taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. If over-the-counter medications aren't helpful, your doctor can inject corticosteroids into your hip joint to resolve the inflammation.

If necessary, your labrum can be surgically repaired. This surgery is done arthroscopically, which means the surgeon will make a small incision and use a tiny camera to see the surgical area.

If you're a swimmer and think you have a hip labral tear, see a sports medicine doctor immediately for treatment at places like Bloor Jane Physiotherapy & Active Rehabilitation.