Common Causes of Hip Impingement

Feb 02, 2023
Common Causes of Hip Impingement
Hip impingement is a common hip condition among competitive athletes, but what causes this condition? Read on to learn about the main types of hip impingement, what causes it, and most importantly, how it’s treated.

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint that provides stability and helps with motion. Understandably, damage or injury to this joint can profoundly affect your mobility. Hip impingement 一 officially known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) 一 is one of the many conditions that can contribute to chronic hip pain. 

FAI occurs when your femoral head (the ball) doesn’t align correctly with the socket. You might not realize you have hip impingement at first, but over time, it can damage cartilage, cause hip stiffness and pain, and can even increase your risk of arthritis.

But what causes hip impingement in the first place, and more importantly, what can you do to treat it? Those are the questions that Dr. William Graham and our team here at Sporting Medicine answer below.

Common causes of hip impingement

The two main causes of hip impingements are related to a deformity of the ball at the top of your femur or a deformity of your socket. These are known as either cam impingements (deformity of the ball) or pincer impingements (deformity of the socket). 

Cam impingements

Cam hip impingements can occur if your femoral head and neck aren’t shaped quite right. This can contribute to abnormal contact between your ball and socket when your hip is bent. Motions that require your hip to bend ー such as using a row machine, tying your shoes, or riding a bikeー can exacerbate this type of hip pain.

Pincer impingement

Pincer hip impingement can happen if the acetabulum (the socket’s rim) extends too far. If this happens, then the neck of the femur (the area of your femur just below the ball) can rub against the rim with normal hip flexion movement. Hip flexion happens every time you bring your knee closer to your chest by stepping, squatting, sitting, or revolving on a bike.


In addition to ball and socket deformities, hip impingements can also be caused by underlying conditions such as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, slipped capital femoral epiphysis, and coxa vara.

Risk factors for hip impingement

Although anyone can develop hip impingement, it’s common in athletes. Certain sports, such as cycling, martial arts, rowing, ballet, hockey, rugby, and soccer are more often associated with hip impingement. Any activity that requires deep squats, including powerlifting, can also contribute to hip pain.

Other risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of hip impingement
  • Participating in intense activity 
  • Having a prior hip injury

Regardless of what contributed to your hip impingement, it’s important to seek medical care if your hip hurts. Getting an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment are the keys to feeling better.

Diagnosing and treating hip impingement

Here at Sporting Medicine, we know that many different conditions can contribute to hip pain. That’s why we focus on pinpointing the specific cause of your pain before developing a treatment plan. 

To diagnose whether or not you have hip impingement, Dr. Graham conducts a comprehensive physical exam, reviews your medical history, examines your gait, and analyzes imaging tests, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans. 

After confirming that hip impingement is to blame, our team reviews your potential treatment options, which may include:

  • Rest
  • Modified movements
  • Physical therapy (to strengthen the muscles that support your hip)
  • Medication to reduce inflammation

To learn more about hip impingement causes or to explore your treatment options, call our Charlotte, North Carolina, office at 704-503-9023. You can also book an appointment online.