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What to Do if You Have a Sprain or Fracture?

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What to Do if You Have a Sprain or Fracture?

Apr 01, 2020

Accidents happen. Where do you go for a broken bone, sprain, or other orthopedic injuries? Dr. Julia Rawlings explains how the University of Utah Orthopaedic Injury Clinic can treat most acute orthopedic injuries.

At this time, the walk-in clinic is requiring patients to schedule an appointment for treatment. If you or someone you know experiences an acute orthopedic injury, call 801-997-9955 to schedule an appointment with the Injury Clinic and help keep our community’s ER and Urgent care facilities free.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: When should you consider University of Utah Health's Orthopaedic Injury Clinic over perhaps a visit to the ER or urgent care, or is it something you can handle on your own? That's what we want to find out today.

Dr. Julia Rawlings is a primary care sports medicine and also practices pediatric emergency medicine, but it's that sports medicine doctor that we really want to talk to today. So the first thing I want to find out is what are some of the common orthopedic injuries a person should consider using the Orthopaedic Clinic versus an ER or urgent care?

Dr. Rawlings: The Orthopaedic Injury Clinic is a great place to go if you have an acute injury, meaning that you have had an injury that you've sustained recently. We're actually willing to see people that have had an injury anytime in the last three months, but preferably not something that's chronic and going on. We'd rather you go ahead and make an appointment with a regular physician during regular hours, although it can be at the Orthopaedic Center.

Specifically, things that are good for the Injury Clinic. So we see a lot of injuries from the ski slopes. We see people that have been playing different sports, or running, biking. We see some football injuries. Anything that's kind of acute. Anything that could go to an urgent care can go to the Orthopaedic Injury Clinic if it's a musculoskeletal injury.

A couple of things we don't see at the Injury Clinic. We don't do stitches there. So if you're bleeding and you think you need stitches, an urgent care or the emergency department would be more appropriate. Also, if your bone is pretty crooked, it's probably a better idea to go to the emergency room. We can do some local numbing medicine to set some easy broken bones, fingers, and things like that, but larger fractures would need to be seen in the Emergency Department for sedation.

Interviewer: And what kind of diagnostic tools do you have there that kind of makes you the choice for some of these as opposed to perhaps an emergency room or an urgent care?

Dr. Rawlings: Yeah. So the Injury Clinic is fantastic because we have access to x-ray on-site, and we can see those images back as soon as they are done. And depending on the time of the day, we actually can often get the reads back from a musculoskeletal radiologist within a few hours. Sometimes those reads don't come back until the next day. We don't have the capability to do CT scans at the Injury Clinic. We do have access to scheduling MRIs in the building, but that's not done the same time as the visit.

So one great thing about the Injury Clinic is you get kind of a full package. So you get your x-rays. You could get an MRI set up. We have all of the braces and everything that you would need, crutches, things like that. And then, we can get you set up with a specialist, whether that's a sports medicine surgeon, foot and ankle surgeon, or one of our non-operative primary care sports medicine physicians. We will actually make that appointment for you while you're there for follow-up.

Interviewer: So the clinic, it sounds like a better option than perhaps making an appointment. It can be difficult to get in sometimes with an orthopedic doctor at times. So this clinic, it's primarily walk-in, is that how it works, or do you have to make an appointment?

Dr. Rawlings: It is walk-in. It's a little bit tricky right now with coronavirus going on, but, typically, it is walk-in. They are switching to appointments during this period of time, but that's going to be very temporary. Generally, it is walk-in, first come, first served.

Interviewer: How can a person decide if an injury is something that they can treat at home or they can just try to see if it's going to get better versus coming into the clinic or seeing a professional?

Dr. Rawlings: Yeah. So we're always happy to check anything out if you're not sure. A couple of tips that just come to my mind. One is if you have an injury that's bad enough you can't really walk on it or bear weight on it, that's something that should be seen, probably get an x-ray, make sure you haven't broken a bone. Or if you really can't move your shoulder or can't move your arm in some way. If you twist your ankle, and you're walking on it okay, and it gets a little bit swollen, that's something that you could probably wait on at home and see how you do. But, yeah, if you have a hard time moving a body part, that's a good time to go in.

Interviewer: All right. Are there some injuries that really you do want to have looked at, otherwise it could affect you and your mobility in the future?

Dr. Rawlings: Yeah. So there are definitely, particularly injuries that involve the joints. We often like to get a sooner look at what's going on rather than a later look, just because things can happen down the road that can lead to arthritis if they're not treated early. That being said, a lot of musculoskeletal injuries aren't emergencies. Meaning, even if you get something like a torn ACL, which is considered a pretty big injury in the sports world, if you're diagnosed several days after that happens, in general, that's okay. It's not something that absolutely needs to go to the emergency department or into the Injury Clinic even the same day you have it. You'd really be okay to get yourself a pair of crutches from the garage and come in a couple of days later.

Interviewer: For the particularly injury-prone that might have some crutches?

Dr. Rawlings: Exactly. There are a lot of people with crutches in their garage from siblings, so.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts that you have when it comes to the walk-in Orthopaedic Clinic? It's such a great resource. I was able to utilize it. I had a shoulder injury. I'm not even going to go into how that happened because it was not cool, it was not athletic. But it was great because I could go in, they were able to look at it, make sure that I didn't, you know, do any permanent damage, which I didn't, and then, you know, gave me a reference to go to a physical therapist to do some exercises to rehabilitate it, so.

Dr. Rawlings: I think it's a fantastic clinic. I mean, it's staffed by people that are trained in musculoskeletal medicine, so we have a little bit of an advantage over lots of the urgent cares that are more kind of general medicine, that we treat a lot of musculoskeletal injuries. We can get you set up with physical therapy pretty easily. And one or two days of the week, we actually have a physical therapist with us in-clinic. So if your injury is appropriate for that, we can even get you started on physical therapy the night that you come in. So I think it's a fantastic resource.