Does your athlete have a dislocation? What to know

Photo: Sam Blackburn/Times Recorder

Dislocations are a common injury in sports and can happen no matter which you’re participating in.

Most recently, a video of Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio dislocating both of her knees went viral. While a student athlete’s dislocation may not be as dramatic, it can still be painful and scary.

Below are five things you need to know and do when a dislocation happens, but first, a bit of background on dislocations.

What is a dislocation?

A dislocation is an injury where a joint is forced out of its normal position.

What are the most common areas that get dislocated?

Shoulders, fingers, elbows, hips and knees (total knee or kneecap), ankles and toes

What causes a dislocation?

Dislocations can occur for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common reasons are forceful contact (with the ground or running into another player) or overtraining without proper rest or if the area is overly-fatigued.

What to do when a dislocation happens?

  1. The most important thing to do is keep calm. Dislocations can be panic-inducing, especially if it’s painful, but that can make the injury worse and increase pain. If a crowd has gathered, disperse them, because they can increase the injured player’s stress levels.
  2. Get care as quickly as possible. Do not try to put the joint back in place as it can cause further damage. If a medical professional such as an athletic trainer is available, get them involved as quickly as possible. If a medical professional is not available, immobilize the joint in the position that it’s in and seek emergency help.
  3. If there is an athletic trainer or other medical professional available, they will assess the situation and decide if it’s appropriate to try to relocate the joint on site or if it needs to be further evaluated at a medical facility.
  4. If a joint is able to be relocated on-site by a medical professional, it’s vital to get medical follow-up care to ensure there aren’t any fractures or other damage from the dislocation that needs further attention. This is especially important for kids that have open growth plates.
  5. Work with your doctor and sports medicine team to identify a return-to-play plan. This may take the form of rest, rehabilitation, or surgery for major or repeat dislocations. Do not allow your child to return before they are evaluated and cleared by a medical professional. While it’s rare for dislocations to be career-ending, they must be properly managed.

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent dislocations, you can reduce the chances of a dislocation by incorporating proper muscle strength and conditioning exercises as well as avoiding overtraining.

Athletic trainers are a great resource for parents and athletes, as they help to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries. Talk to your school’s athletic trainer for more information about dislocation.

If your child’s program does not have an athletic trainer, visit At Your Own Risk to learn more about how you can advocate for a safer approach to sports.

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