Hip Labral Tear: Is Your Young Athlete at Risk?


Athletes who participate in sports like ice hockey, soccer, football and golf are at increased risk of tearing their acetabular labral (hip) cartilage due to repetitive motion required by the sport.

The hip pain started gradually and was barely noticeable in the beginning. First, it was an ache after a sprint with the football. Then, it was a dull throb as he raced around the bases in baseball. Finally, it became a constant, agonizing reminder of every step. It was obvious the pain in 14-year-old Garrett McPherson’s hip had become unbearable.

“He came to us and said, ‘I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t do anything, it hurts so bad,’” says Garrett’s mother, Katie McPherson, of Prosper, TX. At that point, Garrett took six months off from his favorite hobby – sports – and started a schedule of physical therapy and travelling to different orthopedic physicians.

Across town, Henry Ellis, M.D., a UT Southwestern doctor practicing at the Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy, read the referral from a colleague.

Garrett’s athletic activity, combined with his complaints, made me suspicious of a few sports-related injuries to the hip that I commonly treat. I thought that he would certainly be someone I would like to review,” says Dr. Ellis.

Hip Labral Surgery

The hip labral cartilage runs along the rim of the hip socket and is surrounded by a variety of muscles, tendons and ligaments making access somewhat difficult.

Dr. Ellis, a pediatric sports medicine surgeon, is the only physician in North Texas who performs pediatric hip arthroscopy.

Henry B Ellis, Jr., M.D.

Henry Ellis, M.D.

Soon, Garrett and his mother were in Dr. Ellis’ office. “Dr. Ellis knew the problem as soon as he started moving Garrett’s legs around,” says Katie. The diagnosis was clear – a hip labral tear that would require surgery to repair.

“Garrett clearly had the pain very consistent with a labral tear. He was unable to play baseball anymore because of his hip pain, so I thought it certainly warranted further investigation to see how I could help him.” says Dr. Ellis.

During surgery, Dr. Ellis worked on repairing a large labral tear. The operation went seamlessly. Throughout Garrett’s recovery, Dr. Ellis acted as a coach to encourage him to continue physical therapy and stick to the recovery protocol. It’s clear Garrett took the encouragement to heart. “Listen to Dr. Ellis,” Garrett says, “He knows what he’s talking about.”

Today, Garrett is back in the game, playing on the Prosper Eagles 14U team. Garrett’s goals are to play Major League Baseball and to become an orthopedic surgeon, just like Dr. Ellis.

“I can’t wait to see him play,” says Dr. Ellis.

Sharp Rise in Overuse Injuries

The Sports Medicine Department at Children’s reports that two factors have greatly contributed to the sharp rise in overuse injuries in young athletes.

1. Increased Competition. The escalation in youth involvement in competitive sports has contributed to greater overuse, stress and repetitive movement injuries. “It’s very important to address these overuse injuries early on in their symptoms so as to avoid needing surgery,” recommends Dr. Ellis.

2. Early Specialization in One Sport. The current trend toward early specialization in one sport,  limits training, practice and focus to one sport resulting in young athletes increasing stress on specific joints and limiting a well-rounded approach. “Variation among sports is important, particularly in increasing skills and decreasing injuries. This is becoming more obvious to us in the  pedicatric sports medicine world,” says Dr. Ellis.

Parents should be aware of these risks as they guide their child’s athletic pursuits. “I think the best thing we can do is to try to educate patients, families, coaches and pediatricians in order to try to minimize the intensity of sports for our very young children,” says Dr. Ellis.

Comeback Kids

This post is part of our “Comeback Kid” series where we feature young athletes who were injured or diagnosed with a condition that stopped them in their tracks. After undergoing treatment at Children’s these athletes are back in action. Be sure to read more inspiring “Comeback Kid” stories.

More From Our Comeback Kid Series


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4 Responses to Hip Labral Tear: Is Your Young Athlete at Risk?

  1. Michelle January 8, 2015 at 1:20 am #

    My 15 year old competitive soccer player had a right labrum repair on October 8th. He is three months post op and feeling no pain. He was told he could start running but no cutting this week 3 months post–op. Should be able to go back to soccer in 6 weeks. Total recovery time 4.5 months for him. The labrum repair has no effect on growth plates if no FIB at least what I was told. We were initially denied from Blue Cross for that reason (non-closure of growth plates) but I appealed it after an indepantant orthopedic surgeon agreed his surgery was medically necessary. He did not have Impingement. Best decision for him, he was ready to give up soccer because he was in so much pain. Looking forward to getting him back on the field! Treated at Sports Medical Clinic in Oregon

    • Stephen February 23, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      This is very helpful. I have a 15 year old hockey player that will more than likely have this done next week.
      I would expect that your son is back playing by now. How has it effected him…speed…performance? Given what you know now would you do it again?
      Any advice?

      Thanks and continued good luck to your boy.

  2. Jennifer October 28, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    My daughter had a labral tear surgery a year and a half ago. She was 13 at the time and a competitive softball player. I believe her doctor fixed the tear -we took her to Stanford-however, she’s been in pain ever since. She did physical therapy -over 100 visits-then we switched her to deep tissue massage as we were told the scar tissue was the pain culprit. At this point, the massage allowed more range of motion, but our last Dr. Visit at Stanford was disheartening as the Dr. Said the area was still weak. really? After a year and a half of PT?! Something is still wrong in there-I can only think that because she is still growing, maybe the tear is stretching in there? I’m at a loss -I just want her to be out of pain and back to a normal 14 (almost 15 year old) who can play sports again. What an ordeal for a young girl to have to go through :(

  3. Brady October 11, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    My 14 year old was told there’s a chance that surgery will damage his growth plate. was told they won’t do it until he is done growing.

    Also what is the average recovery time for a teen athlete?

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