By: Marylin Salgado
I am sure we have all seen the news when an athlete gets hurt during the Olympics competing on the mats or on the vaults. Or the weight lifter who lifts way above his capacity and blows a shoulder, elbow or knee. Either way, these injuries are disastrous. Not only does the athlete end up with a very weak joint; but most never get to compete again.
Some more notable mentions are Russian weightlifter Andranik Karapetyan, who completely blew his left elbow on the 77kg lift in the Rio 2016 Olympics. On the video, you can see his elbow completely dislocate and almost bend backwards as the athlete yells out in pain. Or Samantha Cerio, a college aged athlete who suffered a double knee joint dislocation in April of 2019, which unfortunately ended her gymnastics career.
During dislocation, a joint bends like rubber and displaces out of the socket. This is most likely due to continuous and severe strain on a joint from lifting heavy weights, usually more than the person has trained for and the joint is ready to handle. If competing during gymnastics, it is probably from landing the wrong way and or blunt impact on the landing.
During a dislocation, the tissues around the joint are stretched and torn. There will be bleeding and immediate swelling and obvious deformation. With severe dislocation, the bone can be torn or fractured. Joint dislocations don’t only happen during competitions. A car accident, fall from a bike or a fall during ambulation can cause a joint dislocation depending on how much force the joint receives.
Popping the joint back into place is a painful experience, and you will already be in pain. Usually, a good amount of force will be needed to get the joint back into the socket. Almost as much force as it took to dislocate it. Some of the bones may need to be pulled further apart as well as the joint may need to be pulled and rotated before being allowed to fall back into place. This procedure can be painful as nerves or blood vessels can become trapped in the joint after it has been placed in the socket; cutting off nerve supply or blood circulation. This will obviously be a more serious complication of the dislocation.
In the case of a finger dislocation, which can be set quite rapidly and because of the fact that it is a much smaller joint, healing might happen in 2 to 3 weeks. A shoulder may take up to 14 weeks. A major joint like a hip, ankle, or knee can take up to 6 months.
Other factors that may affect the healing time of a dislocation are:
- Severity of the dislocation or injury.
- If surgery will be part of the repair.
- Weight; obese individuals will have a more difficult time with healing.
- Current strength of muscles and ligaments. Arthritis or any other joint conditions will definitely pose a problem.
- Treatment compliance, such as sticking to an assigned physical therapy schedule of exercises and appointments.
- If the injury has occurred more then once, then an already weakened joint will take longer to heal.
Dislocations are preventable but not always avoidable. If you play or compete in high impact sports, you will definitely be at greater risk for joint dislocations. Protecting your joints is paramount, but gloves and braces are not always enough. Once dislocated, a joint is more susceptible to dislocation. You must use caution and recognize when not to exceed weight limits or overuse a joint by running or jumping continuously on it.
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