What Is a Hip Pointer?
A hip pointer is a contusion—a bruise—on the hip. It most often occurs from a forceful impact to the pelvic area, specifically areas known as the iliac crest and the greater trochanter. The pelvic bone is shaped roughly like a pair of wings, and the iliac crests (one on each side) are at the very top of the “wings.” The greater trochanter is a protrusion on the side of the femur (thigh bone).
Falls, automobile accidents and sports injuries are some of the more common causes of hip pointers. The injury often occurs when a football player is tackled and the other player’s helmet hits the hip.
Causes and Risk Factors
Hip pointers, by definition, are the result of a direct blow to the iliac crest or greater trochanter. Other hip contusions are not considered hip pointers. Athletic people in good shape are at more risk for hip contusions than others due to minimal fat and other tissue to cushion the iliac crest.
Contact sports are the most common source of hip pointers. These can include:
- Martial arts
However, any sport where there is a risk of falling, especially onto a hard surface, can cause a hip pointer. The risk is greater if the sport in question does not require the use of pads or protective gear in the hip area.
Falls on the hip and automobile accidents are two other common causes of hip pointers.
Hip pointers are acute injuries—they can usually be traced back to a specific event, like a collision on the football field or a car accident. Symptoms will usually show up within 24 to 48 hours of the event.
Symptoms of a hip pointer include:
- Bruising, swelling or discoloration at the top of the hip
- Hip pain, which may be more pronounced with activity like running, jumping or twisting
- Limited range of motion of the hip joint
Diagnosing a hip pointer is usually a matter of a physical exam and a medical history. Doctors will ask the patient about any events that would be likely to have caused the hip pointer. A physical exam will show the doctor any bruising or swelling of the hip. The doctor may also manipulate the leg to check for pain or limited range of motion.
X-rays can be helpful in ruling out other sources of hip pain, such as a hip fracture. Other imaging studies and lab tests are not typically used for hip pointer diagnosis.
Nonsurgical treatment is the standard of care for hip pointers. When pain and swelling are still present (this is known as the acute phase of an injury), the injury can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication and the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression and elevation. A doctor may recommend crutches if the injury is severe enough that the patient has trouble standing or walking on the injured hip.
After the acute phase of the hip pointer has passed, physical therapy can sometimes be helpful in returning range of motion to the hip and strengthening the muscles in the area. Physical therapy and strength and conditioning programs should focus on strengthening the hip region to prevent further injuries. Hip pointers generally heal fairly quickly, within one to three weeks.