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Hip Injuries, Age 11 and Younger

Topic Overview

A hip injury can be hard to deal with, both for the child who has the injury and for the parent or caregiver. A child who has a hip injury may feel pain in the hip, groin, thigh, or knee. A child in pain may limp or be unable or unwilling to stand, walk, or move the injured hip. A baby in pain may cry, be fussy, and have other signs of pain.

To better understand hip injuries, it may be helpful to know how the hip works. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body. The thighbone (femur) fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket (acetabulum) in the pelvis. The hip joint is tighter and more stable than the shoulder joint but it does not move as freely. The hip joint is held together by muscles in the buttock, groin, and spine; tendons; ligaments; and a joint capsule. Several fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion and lubricate the hip joint and let the tendons and muscles glide and move smoothly. The largest nerve in the body (sciatic nerve) passes through the pelvis into the leg.

Hip injuries

A sudden (acute) injury may occur from a fall on a hip, a direct blow to a hip or knee, or abnormal twisting or bending of the leg. Acute injuries include:

  • Muscle strain in the hip, groin, or buttock.
  • Bruising (contusion) of the hip muscles (hip pointer). Deep muscle bruising may occur with other injuries to the hip. Tenderness and muscle spasm may also be present.
  • Dislocated hip, hip fracture, or pelvic fracture. Dislocations and fractures of the hips and pelvis are not often seen in children unless a severe injury (such as a car accident) has occurred.
  • Avulsion fracture. This occurs when a muscle forcibly tears away from a bone and breaks a piece of bone.

Treatment for a hip injury depends on the location, type, and severity of the injury as well as the child's age, general health, and activity level. Treatment may include first aid measures; application of a brace, cast, harness, or traction; physical therapy; medicines; or surgery.

Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Has your child had a hip injury?
Yes
Hip injury
No
Hip injury
How old are you?
Less than 5 years
Less than 5 years
5 to 11 years
5 to 11 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Has your child had hip surgery in the past month?
If a cast, splint, or brace is causing the problem, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.
Yes
Hip surgery in past month
No
Hip surgery in past month
Has it been more than a month since the hip injury?
Yes
Hip injury over a month ago
No
Hip injury over a month ago
Has your child had a major trauma in the past 2 to 3 hours?
Yes
Major trauma in past 2 to 3 hours
No
Major trauma in past 2 to 3 hours
Does your child have severe bleeding that has not slowed down with direct pressure?
Yes
Severe bleeding
No
Severe bleeding
Does your child have symptoms of shock?
Yes
Signs of shock
No
Signs of shock
Is your child having trouble moving the hip or leg?
Yes
Difficulty moving hip or leg
No
Difficulty moving hip or leg
Can your child move the hip and leg at all?
Yes
Able to move hip and leg
No
Unable to move hip and leg
Has your child had trouble moving the hip for more than 2 days?
Yes
Difficulty moving hip for more than 2 days
No
Difficulty moving hip for more than 2 days
Does your child seem to have any hip pain?
Yes
Appears to have hip pain
No
Appears to have hip pain
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
5 to 10: Moderate to severe pain
Moderate to severe pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
Has the pain:
Gotten worse?
Pain is increasing
Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?
Pain is unchanged
Gotten better?
Pain is improving
Does your child seem to have any hip pain?
Yes
Appears to have hip pain
No
Appears to have hip pain
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
8 to 10: Severe pain
Severe pain
5 to 7: Moderate pain
Moderate pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
Has the pain:
Gotten worse?
Pain is increasing
Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?
Pain is unchanged
Gotten better?
Pain is improving
Has your child had pain for more than 2 days?
Yes
Pain for more than 2 days
No
Pain for more than 2 days
Is the leg or foot blue, very pale, or cold and different from the other one?
If the area is in a cast, splint, or brace, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.
Yes
Leg or foot blue, very pale, or cold and different from other leg or foot
No
Leg or foot blue, very pale, or cold and different from other leg or foot
Is there any swelling or bruising?
Yes
Swelling or bruising
No
Swelling or bruising
Did you have swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of the injury?
Yes
Swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of injury
No
Swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of injury
Has swelling lasted for more than 2 days?
Yes
Swelling for more than 2 days
No
Swelling for more than 2 days
Has your child had numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hip that has lasted more than an hour?
Weakness means that the child cannot use the leg or hip normally no matter how hard he or she tries. Pain or swelling may make it hard to move, but that is not the same as weakness.
Yes
Numbness for more than 1 hour
No
Numbness for more than 1 hour
Do you think that the injury may have been caused by abuse?
Yes
Injury may have been caused by abuse
No
Injury may have been caused by abuse
Are there any symptoms of infection?
Yes
Symptoms of infection
No
Symptoms of infection
Do you think the problem may be causing a fever?
Some bone and joint problems can cause a fever.
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?
Yes
Red streaks or pus
No
Red streaks or pus
Does your child have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or any surgical hardware in the area?
"Hardware" includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.
Yes
Diabetes, immune problems, or surgical hardware in affected area
No
Diabetes, immune problems, or surgical hardware in affected area
Has your child had symptoms for more than a week?
Yes
Symptoms for more than a week
No
Symptoms for more than a week

Symptoms of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the area.
  • Red streaks leading from the area.
  • Pus draining from the area.
  • A fever.
Postoperative Problems
Hip Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call911or other emergency services now.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call911or other emergency services now.

Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and congenital heart disease.
  • Steroid medicines, which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Not having a spleen.

When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.

There are other reasons for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.

Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.

Symptoms of shock in a child may include:

  • Passing out.
  • Being very sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • Not responding when being touched or talked to.
  • Breathing much faster than usual.
  • Acting confused. The child may not know where he or she is.

Pain in children under 3 years

It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or grimace.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds when you try to comfort him or her.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds when you try to comfort him or her.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • Blood is pumping from the wound.
  • The bleeding does not stop or slow down with pressure.
  • Blood is quickly soaking through bandage after bandage.

With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • The bleeding slows or stops with pressure but starts again if you remove the pressure.
  • The blood may soak through a few bandages, but it is not fast or out of control.

With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • The bleeding stops on its own or with pressure.
  • The bleeding stops or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.

Major trauma is any event that can cause very serious injury, such as:

  • A fall from more than 10 ft (3.1 m) [more than 5 ft (1.5 m) for children under 2 years and adults over 65].
  • A car crash in which any vehicle involved was going more than 20 miles (32 km) per hour.
  • Any event that causes severe bleeding that you cannot control.
  • Any event forceful enough to badly break a bone.

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Pain in children 3 years and older

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the child can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain. No one can tolerate severe pain for more than a few hours.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt the child's normal activities and sleep, but the child can tolerate it for hours or days.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The child notices and may complain of the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt his or her sleep or activities.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Hip Problems, Age 11 and Younger

Home Treatment

Home treatment may help relieve your child's hip pain, swelling, and stiffness. If your child will cooperate, use the following tips. If your child becomes upset or will not cooperate, do not force your child.

  • Rest. Have your child rest and protect the sore hip. Have your child stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing pain or soreness.
  • Place your child on the uninjured side for sleep.
  • Gently massage or rub your child's hip to relieve pain and encourage blood flow.
  • For the first 1 to 2 days after an injury, do not let your child do things that may increase swelling, such as taking hot showers, using hot tubs, or using hot packs.
  • After 2 to 3 days, if the swelling is gone, heat can be put on the hip. Your child can carefully begin normal activities. Moist heat with a hot water bottle or warm towel may feel good to your child.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your child's fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all labels on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Give, but do not exceed, the maximum recommended doses.
  • Do not give your child a medicine if he or she has had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless directed to do so by your child's doctor.
  • Do not give naproxen (such as Aleve) to children younger than age 12 unless your child's doctor tells you to.

Cast care tips

If your child has a cast, see cast care tips.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your child's doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Pain or swelling develops.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness develops.
  • Pale, white, blue, or cold skin develops.
  • Your child does not want to bear weight on the side of the hip injury.
  • Symptoms do not get better with home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Prevention

The following tips may prevent the chance of hip injuries.

  • Always be gentle with your child. Do not grab your child by his or her legs.
  • Be aware of your child's chance of falling, and take steps to prevent falls.
  • Never leave a baby unattended in high places, such as on a tabletop, in a crib with the sides down, or even on a bed or sofa.
  • Do not leave a baby unattended in any infant seat or "sitting" toy, such as a swing, walker, saucer, or jumper. Use all the safety straps provided.

Establish good safety habits early so that your child will continue them when he or she is older.

  • Place children in an approved child car seat when riding in a motor vehicle. Follow the manufacturer's directions for installing and securing the seat.
  • Have older children wear seat belts every time they are in a motor vehicle. Set a good example by always using your seat belt when traveling in a motor vehicle.
  • Have your child wear protective gear when playing contact sports such as football or hockey.

Injuries may occasionally be a sign of abuse. You may be able to prevent further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your child's main symptoms? How long has your child had symptoms?
  • How and when did an injury occur?
  • Has your child had any injuries in the past to the same area? Does your child have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
  • Does your child limp or complain about pain when he or she walks? Where is the pain felt? How far can your child walk without discomfort? Does the pain get better or worse as he or she continues to walk?
  • What activities make your child's symptoms better or worse?
  • What activities is your child involved with? Has your child recently started a new activity?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription or nonprescription medicines has the child taken? Did they help?
  • Does your child have any health risks that may increase the seriousness of his or her hip symptoms?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as of June 4, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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