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To compare the prevalence of acetabular labral tear in male and female professional ballet dancers with age-matched and sex-matched sporting participants and to determine the relationship to clinical findings and cartilage defects.Case–control study.Clinical and radiology practices.Forty-nine (98 hips) male and female professional ballet dancers (current and retired) with median age 30 years (range: 19-64 years) and 49 (98 hips) age-matched and sex-matched sporting participants.Group (ballet or sports), sex, age, hip cartilage defects, history of hip pain, Hip and Groin Outcome Score, passive hip internal rotation (IR), and external rotation range of movement (ROM).Labral tear identified with 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).Labral tears were identified in 51% of all 196 hips. The prevalence did not differ significantly between the ballet and sporting participants (P = 0.41) or between sexes (P = 0.34). Labral tear was not significantly associated with clinical measures, such as pain and function scores or rotation ROM (P > 0.01 for all). Pain provocation test using IR at 90° of hip flexion had excellent specificity [96%, 95% confidence intervals (CIs), 0.77%-0.998%] but poor sensitivity (50%, 95% CI, 0.26%-0.74%) for identifying labral tear in participants reporting hip pain. Older age and cartilage defect presence were independently associated with an increased risk of labral tear (both P < 0.001).The prevalence of labral tear in male and female professional ballet dancers was similar to a sporting population. Labral tears were not associated with clinical findings but were related to cartilage defects, independent of aging.Caution is required when interpreting MRI findings as labral tear may not be the source of the ballet dancer's symptoms.