A hip dislocation is a rare traumatic injury of the hip joint where the femoral head (ball of the ball-and-socket joint) pops out from the acetabulum (the socket). Treatment involves urgent reduction of the femoral head back into place, usually requiring sedation at a medical facility. Often a fracture of the acetabulum occurs when the hip dislocates. In an athlete, a hip dislocation can be a dangerous injury, as avascular necrosis and later degeneration of the hip has been known to occur months or years after the injury.

Mechanism of injury

In most cases, a hip dislocation requires tremendous force. Impacts such as those in falls, motor vehicle accidents, and collisions in sports, can cause this injury.

Diagnosis of a hip dislocation

A hip dislocation is medical emergency, so getting x-rays of the hip and pelvis are important to show the femoral head outside of the acetabulum. Sometimes a CT scan is necessary, especially when a fracture of the acetabulum appears on the x-rays.

Illustration showing the anatomy of the hip

Treatment of a hip dislocation

Reduction of the dislocation, or putting the femoral head back into the acetabulum, is important to decrease the risk of any nerve or blood vessel complications. A doctor will perform the reduction in an emergency room or operating room where adequate sedation can be given to the patient. In some cases, especially when a coexisting fracture exists, surgery might be needed to reduce the femoral head and fix the fracture.


A hip dislocation can injure the blood vessels to the femoral head. Avascular necrosis, where the bone of the femoral head dies, can develop in the months and years after the dislocation. Injury to the sciatic nerve can also accompany a hip dislocation, especially if the femoral head is out of the acetabulum for a long period of time.

Also read:
Avascular necrosis of the hip
Hip injury: 7 common causes of hip pain in active people

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