Sports injuries: Emergency room, urgent care or talk to your doctor?

sports-injuries

by Bernice Sessa, M.D., emergency medicine physician, Beaumont Hospital, Troy and medical director of Beaumont Urgent Care - West Bloomfield

From ice hockey to soccer and everything in between, injuries are a reality that many athletes must deal with at some point. When they happen, it’s important to get the proper care as soon as possible, but what does that mean?

When do common sports injuries require a trip to an emergency room? When is an urgent care clinic an option? And when does it make sense just to wait and contact your primary care doctor?

It’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician when possible. They may or may not refer you to an urgent care clinic or emergency room. 

CONCUSSIONS AND OTHER HEAD INJURIES

Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury with or without visible marks. Symptoms of a concussion can range from mild to severe.

Go to a hospital emergency room immediately if the athlete has any of the following:

  • confusion
  • bruise on the scalp
  • loss of consciousness
  • severe headache
  • vomiting
  • not acting normal
  • drowsy or excessive sleepiness

Go to an urgent care clinic or follow up with your primary doctor if the athlete has a headache or nausea that is improving and is not accompanied by any loss of consciousness. 

NECK INJURIES

Go to a hospital emergency room immediately if there is any numbness, tingling or arm weakness.

Go to a hospital emergency room immediately for any hit to the neck that leaves the athletes unable to talk or swallow.

Go to an urgent care clinic or follow up with your primary care doctor for:

  • muscle ache, spasm, stiffness or pain with movement
  • bruising from a hit without numbness, tingling or arm weakness

CHEST PAIN FROM A HIT TO THE CHEST

Go to a hospital emergency room immediately if pain across the chest is worsening or the athlete has shortness of breath.

An urgent care clinic is an option if the athlete can tolerate the pain, including chest pain across the ribs when taking a deep breath and/or with movement, or after and during heavy exertion.

SHORTNESS OF BREATH

Simply observe if shortness of breath comes from normal exertion and improves.

Go to an urgent care clinic or contact your primary care doctor if the shortness of breath continues and the athlete cannot speak.

Go to a hospital emergency department immediately for anything worse.

MUSCLES, TENDONS AND BONES

Musculoskeletal injuries can include anything from the shoulders, knees and hips to fingers and toes.

Go to a hospital emergency room immediately if there is severe, constant (intractable) pain associated with moving or bearing weight and there is a large bump or other physical deformity. Any open wound with a possible break (“open fracture”) also warrants an immediate trip to the emergency room. 

Go to an urgent care clinic or contact your primary care doctor for swelling, bruising and pain with movement and the inability to bear weight or use the extremity. X-rays may be indicated, so if you choose to go to an urgent care clinic, look for one that does X-rays onsite.