Captain Morgan Helps Hips in the Emergency Room

Lilla Freichs // Public Domain
Lilla Freichs // Public Domain / Lilla Freichs // Public Domain

Medicine has advanced not just leaps and bounds but light-years over the last half-century. These days, patients benefit from brain scans, 3D ultrasounds, and robot surgeons. But there are some holdouts. If, for example, you have the misfortune of landing in the emergency room with a dislocated hip, there will be no robots. Your doctor will simply grab your leg and shove your hip back into place.

Hip dislocation happens when the head of the big leg bone called the femur slips—or is pushed—out of the hip socket. This can happen in a car accident, on the football field, or in the living room, for people with loose joints or hip replacements.

The traditional emergency department procedure for reducing (or fixing) a dislocated hip is called the Allis Maneuver. The maneuver requires a doctor to climb onto a gurney and straddle the patient. Not surprisingly, this can be challenging, unsafe, and awkward for both parties.

University of California emergency medicine professor Greg Hendey figured there had to be a better way, although he had no idea what the improvement might look like. That is, until one night several years ago when he was watching a commercial for Captain Morgan rum. The mascot struck his well-known pose: grinning lasciviously, with one foot resting on a barrel of liquor. 

Like a cooperative femur, everything fell into place. Hendey realized that a doctor could just put one foot up on the gurney, then use his or her knee to guide the patient’s joints back into place. He implemented the practice in his hospital, took notes on 13 cases where it was used, then wrote up his findings in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. 

Hendey and his co-author concluded that their Captain Morgan technique [Warning: graphic video] was an “interesting and novel” method, and that it was both easier and safer to perform than the Allis Maneuver. Doctors really liked the new method, Hendey told NPR: "Once they start using the Captain, they never go back."

Though Hendey’s sample size was small, later studies in other hospitals affirmed his conclusions. Researchers in Australia came up with the “rocket launcher” method of hip reduction and compared it to Hendey's. Despite its alarming name, they concluded that the rocket launcher technique was safe and effective—just not as effective as Captain Morgan.