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Hip Pointer

A hip pointer is a bruised hip. More specifically, it’s a bruise near the top curve of your hip bone.

You get a hip pointer from falling onto your hip or having a direct hit to your hip. Though a hip pointer can be painful, with rest you can make a complete recovery.

A hip pointer usually does not need interventions like surgery. However, an athlete who gets a hip pointer needs to take a break while it heals. And, depending on how severe the hip pointer is, physical therapy might be beneficial.

Because UPMC Sports Medicine doctors treat athletes in every sport, we commonly see this injury and can help you make a full recovery.

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What Is a Hip Pointer?

A hip pointer injury is a deep bruise to the upper outside part of your hip bone, which is called the iliac crest. If you put your hands on your hips, you’re sitting them on top of this bone. Where your fingers land is near the iliac crest.

The technical term for a hip pointer is a hip contusion. Contusion means a deep bruise, which is why hip pointers are usually painful.

How common is a hip pointer injury?

Knee and ankle injuries are the most common athletic injuries, but hip injuries happen, too. Hip injuries make up about 5% to 10% of all athletic injuries. Hip pointers are then a fraction of that.

What causes a hip pointer?

A hip pointer happens when you get a direct blow to your hip bone, or you take a hard fall onto the hip. Playing sports is the biggest cause, but car accidents or other accidents also can badly bruise your hip.

As you can imagine, if you fall on your hip, the part that sticks out can bear the brunt. This part of your hip bone doesn’t have a lot of fatty tissue to protect it. Athletes who play contact sports also can easily get hit in this area.

What are hip pointer risk factors and complications?

Anyone can bruise their iliac crest, but some people are more likely to experience this injury.

Hip pointer risk factors

You’re most likely to get a hip pointer if you play a contact sport, including:

  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer

Athletes who have to jump and land also are at risk, especially in these sports:

  • Dance
  • Gymnastics
  • Figure skating
  • Pole vaulting
  • Skateboarding
  • Volleyball

Complications of hip pointers

Hip pointers tend to heal with rest. But if you have one and you don’t rest, you risk more injury. Your gait and reaction time may be off, which makes you more likely to fall or get hit again.

An undiagnosed hip pointer won’t directly cause another issue, like a fracture. But sometimes, athletes with a hip contusion also have other issues like hip tendonitis, IT band syndrome, or SCFE (a growth plate problem teens can have in the hip area).

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Hip Pointer?

If you have only a minor hip bruise, it may hurt and feel tender over the front and top of your hip bone.

But if you have a major hip pointer, you might have:

  • Bruising and/or swelling at your hip bone.
  • Hematoma (a bad bruise).
  • Limited range of motion in your hip.
  • Severe pain and tenderness.
  • Weakness in your hip or leg.

Hip pointers don’t always have a visible bruise. Sometimes, the bruise is very deep below the skin. Pain and tenderness after a fall or hard hit are enough to diagnose a hip pointer.

When should I see a doctor about my hip pointer?

With rest, most hip pointers will heal on their own. If your pain lasts for more than two weeks or gets worse, you should see a doctor.

If you have other symptoms after an accident or fall, like dizziness, nausea, or a headache, see a doctor right away.

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How Do You Diagnose a Hip Pointer?

Because we see so many sports injuries at UPMC, we often can diagnose a hip pointer just by learning what happened.

We’ll also do an exam to look at your hip and test your range of motion.

Tests to diagnose hip pointers

If we suspect there’s a more severe injury, like a broken bone, we might order imaging tests. We might also want to look more closely at a severe bruise.

Tests we use include:

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How Do You Treat a Hip Pointer?

Most hip pointers will heal with at-home treatment, which includes:

  • Rest. This means resting from your sport or training routine. You may need to rest for a few days to a few weeks, depending on how severe it is.
  • Ice. Put an ice pack on your hip for 15 minutes at a time, every one to two hours.
  • Compression. Wrap a stretchy bandage around your hips to help provide support. (Depending on how bad your bruise is, it may be hard to tolerate a bandage that’s too tight.)
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medicine. Ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can help with pain and inflammation.

If you have a severe hip pointer and you have trouble walking, you may need crutches.

Some people can also benefit from physical therapy (PT). PT helps you stretch and strengthen the muscles around the injury. If you have weakness in your hip, PT can help stabilize the muscles.

A hip pointer itself rarely requires more intervention unless there's another injury. For example, if you have a fracture or other hip issue, an orthopaedic surgeon might suggest further treatment.

When can I get back to my normal activities?

Most people heal from a hip pointer within a few weeks. If you have a severe bruise, it may take longer.

You can usually return to your training or your sport when:

  • You’re not limping.
  • You’re not in pain.
  • You feel like you’re back to your full strength.
  • You have full range of motion in your hip.

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