- The term “hip pointer” refers to a bruise of the muscles and soft tissue attachments to the top of the pelvis bone, near the area where your shorts or pants would be
- A hip pointer occurs from direct contact, such as from an opponent’s knee or fall to the court
- Most hip pointers heal very well, with full recovery typically expected at about 3 weeks
In the last few weeks there have been several prominent NBA players sidelined for an injury called a “hip pointer”. We’ll see a fair number of these at all levels of basketball, including at the youth level.
What’s A “Hip Pointer”?
The term “hip pointer” has been used by sports medicine specialists for many decades, and in 1967 Dr. Martin E. Blazina from UCLA specifically noted that the phrase “hip pointer” should be used to describe a deep bruise to an area of the pelvis called the iliac crest (bone on the side of the body roughly near the top of your shorts or pants). So in actuality a hip pointer doesn’t really involve the hip, but the pelvis. Still we use the term somewhat broadly today. A hip pointer is an injury that occurs when there is direct contact to the iliac crest. This can occur by getting hit or falling onto your side and landing on a hard surface.
How the Injury Happens
The pelvic bone can see trauma during basketball if there is a direct blow from an opponent’s knee, or from a fall directly on to the basketball floor.
What’s The Story?
Hip pointers typically result in immediate, intense pain and localized tenderness over the iliac crest or pelvic bone. There will usually be significant bruising and swelling around the front, outside and inside of the hip. Due to the bleeding and swelling, movement of the hip will usually be limited and painful. Decreased range of motion and weakness are also typically seen. In young athletes I’ll typically get an x-ray to look for a fracture around the pelvis. One area particularly vulnerable in the growing athlete is the upper edge of the bone, where growth is still occurring.
Treatment starts with a proper diagnosis from a skilled sports medicine professional. These injures can be very uncomfortable, so crutches may be needed for the first several days, along with “RICE”: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This will help to reduce inflammation and control the swelling. After the initial healing, the focus will shift to soft tissue mobilization. Soft tissue massage can help improve range of motion of the hip joint, further reduce swelling and prevent scar tissue. The athlete can then be progressed to range of motion, flexibility, strengthening, and sport specific exercises. For many young athletes I’ll prescribe physical therapy.
Time To Return To Play
Once pain free gait has been resumed sports specific training can be initiated. Full return to competition usually takes about 1-3 weeks for older teenagers, but may take longer in younger athletes, 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.