Impingement by prominence at the femoral head-neck junction on the anterior acetabular rim may cause early osteoarthritis. Our aim was to develop a simple method to describe concavity at this junction, and then to test it by its ability to distinguish quantitatively a group of patients with clinical evidence of impingement from asymptomatic individuals who had normal hips on examination. MR scans of 39 patients with groin pain, decreased internal rotation and a positive impingement test were compared with those of 35 asymptomatic control subjects. The waist of the femoral head-neck junction was identified on tilted axial MR scans passing through the centre of the head. The anterior margin of the waist of the femoral neck was defined and measured by an angle (alpha). In addition, the width of the femoral head-neck junction was measured at two sites. Repeated measurements showed good reproducibility among four observers. The angle alpha averaged 74.0 degrees for the patients and 42.0 degrees for the control group (p < 0.001). Significant differences were also found between the patient and control groups for the scaled width of the femoral neck at both sites. Using standardised MRI, the symptomatic hips of patients who have impingement have significantly less concavity at the femoral head-neck junction than do normal hips. This test may be of value in patients with loss of internal rotation for which a cause is not found.