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FAI – A Common Cause of Labral Tears

Posted on December 13, 2023

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, where the upper end of the femur (the ball) fits into the acetabulum (the socket), which is part of the pelvis. The labrum is fibrous tissue that lines the socket, protects the underlying cartilage, and provides a suction seal between the ball and socket joint.

Problems can arise when the ball and socket don’t fit together properly, leading to labral tears or cartilage damage in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia is not the only condition that can cause a labral tear. Femoroacetabular impingement or FAI, as it is commonly called, is often the culprit behind a labral tear.

This type of impingement happens when the ball doesn’t fit quite right in the socket and repetitive motion or extended motion in the hip joint causes the bone to bump or “impinge,” with the labrum pinched between the bones thereby causing a tear in the labrum.

Over time, if FAI is untreated, it exposes the cartilage in the hip joint to excessive wear and tear, which starts the process of arthritis as you age. Untreated hip pain caused by impingement or a labral tear can lead to arthritis, so it is important to address the underlying cause of hip pain. While it is important to note hip arthroscopy is not used to treat arthritis, it can be an important tool in preventing it.