In last Sunday’s Browns game, Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta took what appeared to be a minor tumble after catching a screen pass in the backfield. But when the “meat wagon” came out on the field, I knew it was something more serious like a hip dislocation.
Today, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this injury. Though they rarely occur in sports, hip dislocations are extremely painful and can pose significant complications.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Sept. 24, 2014.
Joe, you watch football games differently than most of us do. From the play-by-play standpoint, I’m always looking at plays and who’s carrying the ball. You’re looking at injuries, and that Dennis Pitta (of the Baltimore Ravens) injury against us on Sunday looked like he just slipped and fell, but then, man, he didn’t move. And here, we find out he’s out for the year with a hip problem again.
Get in to that, and how did this happen?
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, this is a really bad injury, the hip dislocation. After a few seconds when he was down, I mean, you know how guys get up, limp off, get helped off [the field], but there are certain injuries that you just can’t get up and they don’t want to be moved. They are extremely painful.
… So when we saw, you know, what players and athletes call the meat wagon come out on the field to try and put him on the medical cart, we knew that there was something more significant like a dislocation.
You know, Ray, we see a lot of dislocated joints in contact sports. Down at our sports medicine center in the course of a week, we’ll see a lot of patellar dislocations, where the kneecap pops out.
Um, shoulder dislocations are very common in contact sports. In a season in football, I always say there are about 2 to 4 shoulder dislocations per team per year. It’s very common in wrestling and hockey, too.
Ankle dislocations occur occasionally, too. We know that RG3 (of the Washington Redskins) had that ankle dislocation this year, but they say he may come back. He did not have a fracture with it.
But, you know unfortunately, RG3 is becoming the poster child for different injuries now. He’s had so many different things, and he’s starting to unravel I’m afraid a little bit with injuries.
But, the injury that’s really the most significant and very unusual in sports is a hip dislocation. The hip has such strong ligaments that hold it in place, it’s very rare to be dislocated.
So kids come in our office sometimes [and] say, “My hip popped out” or “My hip popped.” It’s not a joint that pops out or pops like that. That’s usually a tendon snapping over the ball and socket and that’s not a dislocation.
A dislocation of the hip usually occurs most frequently in a very bad car accident, motor vehicle accident, or a bad fall from a ladder, but occasionally, it happens in sports. And when the ball flips out of the socket, it’s extremely painful. People do not want to be moved at all.
There’s a certain position that the leg is held in that I can tell right away that it’s a hip dislocation and all you can do is try to just keep the person calm, get the squad there and get the person in to be evaluated.
One of the biggest problems with hip dislocations, Ray, is there are 2 big complications. One is there’s very often nerve injuries, nerve damage, from that ball slipping out of the socket.
And the other is avascular necrosis. While the ball is out of the socket, there’s decreased or disruption to the blood flow to the hip. They call that Bo Jackson hip, where then the hip goes into terrible arthritis … [with potentially] hip replacement and problems down the road.
So, the hip is really a big deal. The one with Dennis Pitta, there had to be some underlying issue because like you said there really wasn’t the high-velocity hit that took place. They said he had some significant problems before, but when you saw them coming to help him out and nobody was touching or moving him, you knew that it was something more significant like a hip dislocation.
HORNER: Alright, thank you, Joe. Great insight as always. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Thanks, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, with us.