Lisa finally got the chance to start for the varsity volleyball team, and she really wanted to impress the coach. But on one play she got overeager and collided with a teammate while going for a spike. She landed flat on her side on the hard gym floor. Lisa felt a sharp, strong pain in her hip and had to be helped off the floor.
After being taken out of the game, Lisa iced her hip and took a couple of aspirin. But the next day her hip still hurt and was swollen and bruised. Her mother took her to see the doctor. It turned out Lisa had a hip pointer, a bruise to one of the bones of her hip.
Your hip joint involves two bones. Your hipbone is called the iliac (pronounced: ill-ee-ack) crest and the top of your leg bone (femur) is called the greater trochanter (pronounced: troe-kan-tuhr). A hip pointer is a bruise to one of these bones or to the surrounding soft tissue (muscles, cartilage, tendons, etc.).
In rare cases, a hip pointer can also cause what's known as an avulsion fracture, where part of the bone is pulled away by the attached muscle.
Since the bones in your hips don't have a lot of muscle and fat for padding, they're more susceptible to bone bruises. Bone bruises can be painful and take a while to fully heal.
Hip pointers are caused by a sudden impact that's hard enough to bruise your iliac crest or greater trochanter or cause damage to the soft tissue of your hip.
Some of the more common causes of hip pointers include:
As with most sports injuries, how painful a hip pointer is or how long it takes to heal depends on the severity of the injury. Most hip pointers will be only a minor inconvenience and can be hard to see. But if you have a serious hip pointer, you'll know it.
Look for these symptoms:
If you see a doctor about a hip pointer injury, he or she will examine the area for swelling and bruising. That might include pressing on your hip to see how tender the area is. The doctor will ask questions about how the injury happened.
In some cases, the doctor may call for X-rays or an MRI scan to see if there is a bone fracture or damage to the surrounding tissue. A doctor might also order an MRI or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to rule out any damage to internal organs.
Doctors don't need to do a lot for most hip pointers. Your doctor will most likely recommend crutches. He or she may also prescribe medication to ease the pain.
Some of the things you can do at home to treat a hip pointer include:
Severe hip pointers can result in a hematoma or fracture, or in damage to internal organs like the spleen. These types of more serious hip pointer injuries might require a doctor's help. If you have a hematoma and get fluid buildup in your hip, a doctor may need to drain it.
Surgery for hip pointers is rare. Most can be easily treated and heal in their own time. But if a hip pointer doesn't respond to other treatments (or if a CT scan or MRI reveals internal damage), surgery may be necessary to correct the condition.
It can be hard to prevent a hip pointer. They happen suddenly and can be difficult to see coming. Still, you can help reduce your chances of getting one by following a few simple guidelines when you play sports or exercise:
Conditioning exercises that strengthen specific areas of the body are good ways to protect yourself from hip pointers. Talk to your coach or a sports medicine specialist about getting a performance analysis to learn if any areas of your body are vulnerable to injuries like hip pointers.
Reviewed by: Kathleen B. O'Brien, MD
Date reviewed: April 2011
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