Hip Dislocation: How It Happens and What to Do After

By Michelle Duclos, MA, ATC, LAT, CES

Author: Michelle Duclos, MA, ATC, LAT, CES

Overview

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the shoulder, made up of the femur and pelvis. Around these bones are a think labrum and a number of large muscles. The major difference between the hip and shoulder is that the socket is much deeper in the hip. This makes the hip joint one of the most stable in the body. Meaning it takes great force to cause a hip dislocation. In fact, 70 percent of hip dislocations in America are the result of car accidents. Hip dislocations in sports occur in high impact sports like American football, rugby, skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics, race car driving, and equestrian sport.

Anatomy of the hip

human pelvis anatomy 3d medical illustration.

Symptoms of a Dislocated Hip

Hip dislocations are a severe injury. Someone with this injury would have extreme pain around the hip and upper thigh. It would be very difficult to walk and the affected hip may look raised and internally rotated. Hip dislocations can also lead to avascular narcosis of the hip. This is where the head of the femur begins to breakdown due to its blood supply being cut off. Famously, this is the injury that led to Bo Jackson ending his professional football and baseball careers. Other complications from hip dislocation could include tearing of the labrum, fractures of the femoral head or pelvis, and nerve damage to the rest of the leg.

 

Treatment and Recovery

If you suspect that you have dislocated your hip, go to your nearest emergency room for an evaluation immediately. It is important to seek professional help soon due to the risk of damaging the nerve and blood supply of the lower leg. Once relocated, or reduced, you should take time to control the pain and inflammation. This can be done with ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and narcotics. Consulting with an Orthopaedic physician is the best way to determine your next step. Some cases required surgical intervention to properly reduce the hip or to treat tears to the labrum and surrounding tissues.

A doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help regain range of motion and strengthen the muscles that support the hip. Physical therapy is crucial after a hip dislocation because of the role the hip plays in weight bearing. Talking with a therapist about your goals can help you plan a rehabilitation schedule that is best for you. Athletes typically return to full activity after 4 to 6 months. It is important to remember that each case is different and comes with its own unique recovery needs.  If you have any questions it is important to consult your doctor or therapist to determine the best course of treatment.

 


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