Q: I have a friend who was diagnosed with a labral tear. She said it's becoming more common among dancers. Is there a way to prevent this?
A: Labral tears are being diagnosed more often because our ability to see inside the hip capsule with arthrograms and MRIs is getting better. That being said, I believe that the repetitive stresses that dancers put on their hip joints make them ideal candidates for this type of injury.
The labrum at the hip joint acts to deepen the bowl where the head of the femur rests. Injuries to the labrum can occur from chronic trauma, like a dancer working to turn out their leg through sheer muscular determination and force, and acute trauma, like a fall or violent motion at the joint. Signs and symptoms that accompany a labral tear might be deep pain, loss of strength, decreased range of motion and a catching sensation in the hip.
So, what can we do as teachers to prevent this from happening in our students? Help them understand how to create turnout in their body with their specific hip structure. We need to stop holding the myth of 180-degree turnout as the gold standard to reach for. We need to develop the mind-set that says most students start with average turnout, and through years of stretching, strengthening and balancing out the hip joint muscles, their turnout will improve, slowly and safely.