What is a Hip pointer?

By James M. Paci, MD

Last Updated on December 28, 2023 by The SportsMD Editors


A hip pointer is a contusion, or bruise, of the iliac crest, the bone along the brim of the pelvis, and its surrounding structures. Other affected structures may include the tensor fascia lata, the external oblique muscle and the greater trochanter of the femur.  In severe cases a hematoma, a collection of blood, may form and cause a palpable fluctuant mass beneath the skin. Hip pointers are usually the result of a direct blow to the pelvic brim, often in contact sports like football or ice hockey, or after a fall directly onto the hip. 


Symptoms of hip pointer 

A hip pointer is associated with pain over the iliac crest, bruising and hematoma may also occur, as may muscle spasm. In the case of a hematoma, a hip pointer may be associated with severe pain, as it dissects between the gluteus muscle and the iliac crest and can potentially press on the femoral or lateral femoral cutaneous nerves. 


Diagnosing a hip pointer 

hip pointerWhile a hip pointer may be diagnosed clinically, in certain instances additional information may be garnered from imaging. Radiographs help to make sure that no fractures have occurred, while MRI and ultrasound may be used to determine the extent of the contusion and or hematoma present. X-rays are especially important in the adolescent patient who may have an avulsion fracture that mimics a hip pointer clinically.


Anatomy of the pelvic brim

hip pointer injury
Llilac Crest – Area of Hip Pointer Injury

The pelvic brim, or iliac crest, is the very superficial bony prominence felt beneath the skin on one’s side at the level of the belly button. It is a part of the pelvis girdle, and has attachments for many muscles, including the internal and external obliques, the tensor fascia lata, the gluteus medius, the latissimus dorsi, and the paraspinal muscles.




Treatment for Hip pointer

The acute treatment of a hip pointer includes rest, ice and use of anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen.

More Information: Read about sports injury treatment using the P.R.I.C.E. principle – Protection, Rest, Icing, Compression, Elevation.

hip pointer treatment

Crutches may be needed for a couple of days after injury. It has been suggested to delay treatment, other than with ice, for 48 hours to allow all bleeding to stop prior to treating a deep contusion any further. An acute injection of corticosteroids (ie hydrocortisone) into the injured area may greatly reduce symptoms in the short term and speed up rehabilitation. There is however the risk of disordered muscle healing after corticosteroid injection, and as such decision to use this modality must be made on a case specific basis, with the athlete’s best interest in mind. Needle aspiration, or draining of, a painful hematoma may improve symptoms and decrease time to recovery. Physical therapy may be needed to regain motion and strength prior to return to play.


Hip pointer injury recovery time 

Return to play ranges based on the severity of injury, and treatment modalities used. Once pain free gait has been resumed sports specific training can be initiated. With conservative treatment and physical therapy, on average one can expect full recovery within two to four weeks. and longer still if there’s a fracture to the bone. After full healing, you should expect to be able to participate in full activity without restrictions. An injured athlete may return to play once full range of motion and strength have returned.


Complications of a hip pointer 

Potential complications include muscle fibrosis, delayed muscle soreness, and myositis ossificans (bone formation after hematoma within a muscle).


How can an athlete prevent a hip pointer? 

Proper fitting padding and protective equipment can help prevent injury occurrence or recurrence. 


Can Telemedicine Help?

Telemedicine is gaining popularity because it can help bring you and the doctor together quicker and more efficiently. It is particularly well suited for sports injuries such as a hip pointer and facilitating the diagnosis of the severity of the injury and a treatment plan.  Learn more via SportsMD’s 24/7 Telemedicine Service.




Question: What does a hip pointer feel like?

Answer: With a hip pointer you can feel immediate and often excruciating pain.  After the intial injury, you will feel pain and tenderness when pressing in over the bony part at the front of your hip.  Bruising and swelling can also be present.


Question: How long does it take a hip pointer to heal?

Answer:  Return to play ranges based on the severity of injury, and treatment modalities used.  With conservative treatment and physical therapy, on average one can expect full recovery within two to four weeks but longer still if there’s a fracture to the bone.


Question: Should I stretch a hip pointer?

Answer: Gentle stretching a hip pointer for 20-30 seconds can help to loosen the muscles around the injured hip and help reduce pain.  Your doctor or phsyical therapist may percribe a full rehabilitation program wich would include stretching and mobility exercises followed by hip strengthening exercises.





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