A dislocation is when the bones
in a joint slip out of their normal position. A hip dislocation is an injury that
happens when the ball of the thighbone moves out of the socket of the hipbone.
More to Know
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint made up of the thighbone (femur) and hipbone
(pelvis). The ball-shaped head of the femur fits into a hollow in the pelvis and is
held in place by ligaments and cartilage. This structure makes the hip very stable,
but a lot of force applied to the leg can pop the head of the femur out of its socket,
or dislocate it.
Most hip dislocations are the result of motor vehicle accidents, but severe falls
(such as from a ladder) or injuries due to sports like football, rugby, skiing, and
snowboarding also can generate enough force to dislocate a hip. Some children are
born with a congenital defect
called developmental dysplasia of
the hip that makes hips unstable and can cause them to become dislocated.
In about 90% of dislocated hips, the thighbone is pushed backward, which causes
the hip to bend and the leg to twist in toward the middle of the body. In other cases,
the thighbone is pushed forward, which results in less bending of the hip and a leg
that is twisted out away from the middle of the body.
Hip dislocations usually cause severe pain in the hip that can spread to the legs
and back, and they can make the affected leg appear deformed or shorter than the other
leg. Treatment involves resetting the head of the thighbone in the socket of the hipbone.
This can be done manually by a trained doctor or through a surgical operation.
Keep in Mind
Hip dislocations are relatively rare, but they are serious injuries that need immediate
medical attention. With treatment, a dislocated hip should heal in 2 to 3 months.
Any additional injuries — such as hip fractures — can make the hip
take longer to heal completely.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical