A hip pointer is an injury to the bony edge of the hip joint, called the iliac crest. Pointers are very common in contact sports such as football, but the injury can also occur due to a bad fall. Following an injury, the hip usually becomes sore, tender, and swollen. About two weeks of rest and using ice packs is usually enough to recover from a hip pointer, but pain that is severe or persists for more than a few weeks should be assessed by a doctor. Surgery is rarely necessary, but a person may need to take prescription medications and engage in physical therapy to fully recover.
The iliac crest is made up of strong bone tissue, but it is not well protected by muscle or fat. A fall or a direct blow to the side of the hip can easily cause a bone contusion. Most injuries cause immediate pain and redness, and swelling usually occurs within about an hour. Severe hip pointers can significantly impair range of motion on the affected side and activities such as jumping, running, and bending become very painful. Over the course of several days, swelling gradually decreases and a purple-yellow skin bruise emerges.
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Athletes who play contact sports are at the highest risk of suffering hip pointers, especially if they do not wear the proper protective equipment and padding. Engaging in a non-contact sport where falls are common, such as skiing and skateboarding, can also lead to a hip pointer. In addition, older people with osteoporosis and limited mobility are at an increased risk of suffering hip pointers and fractures due to falls.
Most hip injuries can be successfully treated at home by avoiding physical activity and icing the joint. Doctors usually recommend that people stay off of their feet as much as possible and apply an ice pack every few hours for the first two days. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve acute pain and swelling as well. A hip pointer usually becomes less tender after a few days, and most people are able to gradually return to normal levels of activity within two to three weeks.
A person who suffers a debilitating hip injury should be brought to an emergency room to check for fractures and nerve damage. A severe hip pointer that compresses blood vessels can cut off blood supply to the hip joint, possibly resulting in extensive tissue death. After thoroughly examining a patient, a doctor usually prescribes pain medication and schedules physical therapy sessions to help rebuild flexibility and strength over several months.