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Hip Pointer

What a hip pointer is and how to get relief.
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Written by
Benjamin Schwartz, MD, FAAOS.
Orthopedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine North
Last updated April 26, 2021

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What is a hip pointer?

Hip pointer is a bruise to the upper part of the hip bone (pelvis) that happens from a direct blow to the hip bone, usually during sports, like football and hockey. It can also happen from a hard fall. There is not much tissue in this area to provide cushioning to your bones.

There may be bleeding underneath the skin that can lead to bruising, swelling, and pain in the area. The swelling can also affect the tendons and ligaments in the area.

Hip pointers can generally get better with ice and rest, but you may need to see a doctor if symptoms worsen or pain is severe.

Most common symptoms

Pro Tip

Pain from hip pointer may cause limited motion of the hip or even weakness. If there is enough bruising or swelling, you may have some numbness or tingling in the upper hip or thigh area. This should go away as the swelling improves. —Dr. Benjamin Schwartz

The most common symptoms include pain in the upper hip area, swelling, and bruising. Swelling and bruising may be worse a day or two after the injury happens. Movement of the hip and leg can become painful. Touching or putting any direct pressure on the area also causes pain.

In some cases, swelling and pain may cause the leg to feel weak or give way especially when putting weight on the leg.

Main symptoms

Other symptoms you may have

  • Limited range of motion in your hip and leg
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness

Risk factors

Athletes that participate in contact sports such as hockey or football are at higher risk of suffering from a hip pointer. This is because the injury is usually caused by direct trauma such as running into another player.

Volleyball players are also at risk, because when diving for a ball, they can fall directly on the upper part of the pelvis. Athletes who use the wrong padding or not enough padding can also be at risk of hip pointer.

Next steps

If you get a hip pointer, you should stop playing the sport right away. Adolescent athletes may require an X-ray to make sure they haven’t damaged growth plates (areas where bones are growing) around the pelvis in the same area.

Many hip pointers can be treated by athletic trainers. You should contact your doctor if the pain is severe, you cannot comfortably put weight on the leg, or the range of motion of the hip is limited and your hip is extremely painful to move.

Pro Tip

The time to return from a hip pointer injury is when your pain has improved to the point that it does not limit your ability to play at your normal level. —Dr. Schwartz

Causes

Hip pointers are caused by a direct blow to the upper part of the pelvis where the bone is very close to the skin. There may be bleeding underneath the skin that can lead to bruising or swelling in the area.

This bruising, bleeding, and swelling can also affect the muscles that attach to the pelvis in the area, making them stiff or sore. In rare cases, swelling can affect nerves in the area, causing numbness or tingling.

Treatment

Dr. Rx

Most soft tissue injuries take a lot longer to get better than you would expect. It is not uncommon for symptoms of hip pointer to linger for 6 to 12 weeks. This can be frustrating for an athlete who is looking to return to play as quickly as possible. Returning to play too soon can be harmful and can put you at higher risk for further injury. —Dr. Schwartz

Hip pointers are first treated with rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  Athletes shouldn’t go back to their sport until their symptoms no longer limit comfortable movement. Physical therapy can be helpful to improve your range of motion and strengthen the hip.

It can take 6 to 12 weeks before the pain is completely gone. But if the pain isn’t improving after 3 to 6 weeks, see a doctor. They may use cortisone injections to reduce the inflammation. Hip pointers do not require surgery.

Medication

  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) reduce inflammation and help reduce pain and swelling. It’s important to take them regularly for the first 1 to 2 weeks following the injury. NSAIDs should not be taken on an empty stomach and you may need to check with your medical provider before taking them.
  • Topical pain relievers such as creams, balms, or rubs can be used to treat hip pointers as well.

Preventative tips

Adding additional padding to the upper hip and pelvis area and making sure your protective equipment is in good condition are good ways to prevent future episodes of hip pointer.

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Orthopedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine North

Dr. Schwartz is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Member of the Buoy Medical Advisory Board. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the College of William and Mary (1998) with a B.S. in Biology, then obtained his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia (2002) where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. After completing his Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Boston Medical Center (2007), Dr. Schwartz performed a fellowship in Adult Reconstruction at the Anderson Orthopedic Clinic in Alexandria, VA (2008). As a private practice surgeon, Dr. Schwartz specializes in the treatment of hip and knee arthritis including joint replacement surgery.

On a national level Dr. Schwartz serves several leadership positions including as an Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Arthroplasty, a member of the Practice Management Committee of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, and a member of the Hip and Knee Content Committee for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. With a keen interest in healthcare technology, Dr. Schwartz has served as a mentor for several digital health incubators and as an advisor for health tech startups. He joined Buoy as a content writer in 2019 and became a member of the Medical Advisory Board in 2020.

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