Gymnastics is a popular sport, but it's also high risk. Every year, five out of every 1,000 young gymnasts will go to the emergency room for an injury. Labral tears are one of these injuries. Here are four things parents need to know about labral tears.
What are labral tears?
The labrum is a ring of cartilage that cushions the hip socket. It's job is to hold the ball of the thigh bone in place and to cushion the movements of the joint. This cartilage can become torn during gymnastics.
If your child tears their labrum, they may not have any symptoms. However, a labral tear can also lead to pain in the hip region or a clicking sensation in the hip. The injury can also lead to stiffness, so your child may complain that they're not able to do the splits or other moves that require a great degree of flexibility in the hips.
How do gymnasts get labral tears?
Nearly three-quarters of labral tears in athletes have an insidious onset. This means that there is no specific event—like a fall—associated with the injury. These injuries are thought to occur due to repetitive trauma to the cartilage.
Your child may damage their labrum over time through deep stretches such as the splits. Activities that force them to overextend their hips, like leaps or flips, can also lead to damage over time.
To help protect your child from labral tears, make sure they take regular days off from gymnastics, even if they want to practice every day. This gives their labrum time to heal. It's also important that their coach varies their exercises and routines so that they're not constantly straining their labrum day after day.
How are labral tears treated?
Typically, rest and medications form part of the conservative treatment for labral tears. Your child will need to take a break from gymnastics and take medications like anti-inflammatories or painkillers. Resting will help with the pain, though since the pain often comes back when the rest period ends, they'll need to go to physical therapy.
Physical therapy is generally recommended for 10 to 12 weeks. During their sessions, your child will learn to avoid movements that put stress on the labrum, like pivots. They will also work on strengthening weak muscles around the hips. Some of these exercises will resemble gymnastics moves to help them get back to their favorite sport.
If you think your young gymnast has a labral tear, take them to a doctor or health clinic.