Nonoperative Management of Hip Labral Tears in Young Dancers


This post was written by H&W instructor, Ginger Garner, PT, MPT, ATC, PYT, who teaches the Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy and Labor & Delivery and Postpartum courses, and is teaching her brand new course, Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury, in June in Akron, OH.

Research into the surgical and nonsurgical management of acetebaular labral tears is young, but growing fast. Physical therapy is considered an integral part of nonoperative management of acetabular labral tears, with a trial of therapy also serving as the newest standard in preoperative and postoperative care. Conservative care becomes even more important in young dancers.

A critical concern in all individuals is hip joint preservation and prevention of premature joint degeneration and development of osteoarthritis. Especially in young females, who start with a higher risk of labral tears, sports like figure skating, dancing, and gymnastics further increase risk and prevalence of tears.

There are several reasons young women can experience a labral tear, but in general the etiology will fall under five possible categories: 1) congenital, 2) traumatic, 3) degenerative (far less likely with a young population), 4) capsular laxity, and/or 5) idiopathic causes such as femoral acetabular impingement. There are many more causes that fall under each category, but early intervention is repeatedly found in the literature to be perhaps the most important variable in long-term hip joint preservation and outcomes. Duke University physical therapist and orthopaedic surgeon, Michael Reiman and Chad Mather, respectively, authored a 2014 article with colleagues from Ohio that outlines the five major etiological categories, discussing the increasing prevalence of labral tears in high-risk populations and underscoring the need for early intervention. Citing diagnosis of labral tears as “continuously challenging”, the article emphasizes that a battery of tests and screening, rather than a single diagnostic viewpoint, are requisite in identifying an acetabular labral tear.

For young dancers, early intervention is of utmost importance. A case study currently in press (April 2014) reports success with a 12-year-old skeletally immature figure skater with a diagnosis made within the first month of the onset of pain and impairment. A six-week trial of physical therapy began immediately on consensus of three pediatric orthopaedic surgeons specializing in arthroscopic management of the acetabular hip labrum. At the 4-week follow-up, progress in PT was being objectively made with pain levels diminishing and functional performance improving (with no return to skating yet). After a continuation of therapy for an additional 6 weeks, the figure skater was able to return to skating and perform single jumps and double Lutz at 75% of her normal jump height without pain. At that time, PT was decreased to 1x/day weekly while continuing her normal home therapy program. After another month of therapy, she returned to her full training schedule. At the four-month visit she had returned to full competition with full spins and jumps (double axels) without pain. The one-year follow-up found the young patient pain-free and competing at local and national competitions.

The importance of physical therapy cannot be underestimated in young athletes, especially females, due to their inherently increased risk of labral injury. Further, multiple studies cite the importance of a multi-disciplinary, integrated approach in managing the hip labrum.

My Hip Labrum Injury course will focus on this biopsychosocial and integrated approach, including both conventional and integrative techniques in order to obtain the best outcomes for patients.

You can read some of my previous posts on evaluating risk and prevalence of hip labral injury:

Lady Gaga’s Hip Labral Tear: Are you at Risk?

The Postpartum Hip and Labral Tear Risk

The Importance of Early Intervention in Labral Tears

Implicating the Iliopsoas in Acetabular Labral Tears: Focus on Anatomy

Want to learn more from Ginger? Join us in June!

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