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Hip impingement is also called femoroacetabular impingement and is an important cause of hip pain in childhood and early adolescence.

It is the result of an abnormal connection between the hemispherical femoral head and the cup-shaped hip socket or acetabulum in which it rotates. This leads to increased surfaces of contact between the two, especially when the hip is flexed. This causes injury to the cartilage protecting the rim of the acetabulum and the head of the femur, resulting in pain.

It is almost always seen in athletically active adolescents, especially girls, and the sport or activity is associated with the symptoms. It may occur at more advanced ages too.

Clinical Features

Hip impingement may manifest as stiffness of muscles in the thigh, hip or even the groin. There is groin pain after hip flexion, especially after the individual has been running or sitting down for a long period. The hip is painful to flexion beyond 90 degrees. Rest pain may also occur in the groin, hip or lower back.

Its clinical features include:

  • Pain over the anterior aspect of the hip, which becomes worse with flexion
  • Reduced internal rotation of the hip
  • Positive impingement sign

It may result in osteoarthritis of the hip with time.

There are different types, including pincer impingement and cam impingement. Both may coexist. Cam impingement refers to the abnormality of the shape of the femoral head, while pincer impingement is related to the excessively deep acetabular cup, which limits movement.

Causes of Hip Impingement

Any change in the shape of the femoral head, femoral neck, or hip socket can lead to the signs and symptoms associated with hip impingement.

This may be due to a congenital structural abnormality or it may be one that is acquired by repetitive movement of the hips exceeding their normal range of motion.

This may be seen, for instance, in sports such as baseball or soccer, dancing and in golfers. In a few cases, the hip impingement may be due to hip injury, Perthe’s disease, or a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE).

Diagnosis and Treatment

The occurrence of osteoarthritis due to damaged cartilage makes the accurate diagnosis and treatment of this condition necessary. This is based upon a complete history and physical examination, as well as the assessment of the involved hip.

Imaging tests may be ordered, including X-rays, as well as CT or MRI scans to visualize the soft tissues, including labral cartilage, and to better show the joint structure.

Treatment may be conservative, such as limiting the offending activity and physical therapy. Pain management may play a role in recovery. However, surgical intervention is recommended in severe impingement.

Arthroscopic surgery is now offered as the less invasive option. In the case of severe deformity, or if the impingement is part of a more complicated process, open surgical correction is preferred.

Correction involves realignment of the hip joint, or reshaping the bones so that they fit each other properly. Recovery involves rehabilitation that may last for up to four months.


  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26709682
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19034169
  • http://www.ortho.wustl.edu/content/Patient-Care/3206/Services/Sports-Medicine/Overview/Hip/Hip-Impingement.aspx
  • https://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-impingement.asp

Further Reading

  • All Hip Impingement Content
  • Hip Impingement Treatment
  • Hip Impingement Causes

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Written by

Dr. Liji Thomas

Dr. Liji Thomas is an OB-GYN, who graduated from the Government Medical College, University of Calicut, Kerala, in 2001. Liji practiced as a full-time consultant in obstetrics/gynecology in a private hospital for a few years following her graduation. She has counseled hundreds of patients facing issues from pregnancy-related problems and infertility, and has been in charge of over 2,000 deliveries, striving always to achieve a normal delivery rather than operative.

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