After the Fall: Who Should Treat Your Sports Injury

Basketball player with sprained ankle

Your son suffered a minor injury playing football. Your daughter twisted her ankle at the volleyball tournament. Where to turn for help? Do you visit the family doctor who’s known your child since he was an infant? Or visit an orthopedic specialist who may be more familiar with these types of injuries?

The family doctor can write a prescription for meds to help with swelling and pain, said CHI Health certified athletic trainer D.J. Gehr. Or the doctor can order an X-ray or MRI to help with a diagnosis. A more severe injury may require the expertise of an orthopedic specialist.

“An orthopedic doctor who specializes in sports medicine only sees people suffering from sports-related injuries,” Gehr said. “Because of this specialization, generally speaking, they have far more experience in dealing with sports-related injuries than a family practitioner. This experience usually leads to quicker and more successful patient outcomes.”

ER or Ortho: Which is Right?

The Emergency Department:

  • Suspected fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Gross deformities
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Suspected spinal injury
  • An injury that can worsen if athlete is moved
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness, seizure, vomiting, intense headache, slurred speech
  • Weakness or tingling in an extremity

The Orthopedic Specialist:

  • An injury that shows no signs of improvement (or less improvement than expected) within seven days
  • Difficulty performing normal activities (climbing stairs, picking up objects)
  • Pain in muscles, joints or tendon/ligaments that doesn’t go away or limits performance
  • Swelling or bruising around a joint or injury
  • Limited range of motion