What to do When Winter Sports Injuries Occur

“Should I go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?”

A separated shoulder from a wrestling match. A case of the common cold or flu. A concussion from hockey. A suspected broken bone from a sledding accident. Severe heart palpitations during a pickup game of basketball at the local gym.

These can all occur during the winter months. And when they do, what should you do? 

Do you go to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic? 

While the answer is not always obvious, knowing when to use urgent care and emergency care could save your life or the life of a loved one.

 “The distinction between emergency and urgent care can be confusing,” according to Dana Black, DO, Adena Urgent Care Medical Director. “Both indicate an immediate need for care. However, there are definitely differences in when patients should use the ER vs urgent care.”

 Adena Health System offers both urgent care and emergency care at a variety of convenient locations close to you throughout South Central Ohio.

When to go to the ER

From the latest life-saving technologies to privacy and comfort, the Adena Health’s emergency departments are qualified to respond to all types of emergencies.

There are a number of medical conditions that are considered emergencies because they require immediate or advanced treatments (such as surgery).

A good rule of thumb for when to go to the Adena ER is this:

Is your condition life-threatening?

“If your instincts tell you it’s serious, then go to the closest emergency room,” Dr. Black said.

Visit the ER, if you experience the following conditions and/or symptoms:

  • Suspected heart attack, stroke or blood clot
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
    • Weakness/numbness on one side
    • Slurred speech
    • Fainting/change in mental state
    • Serious burns
    • Head or eye injury
    • Concussion/confusion
    • Broken bones and dislocated joints
    • Fever with a rash
    • Seizures
    • Severe cuts that may require stitches
    • Facial lacerations
    • Severe cold or flu symptoms
    • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy
    • Severe fractures with unbearable pain or bone coming through the skin
    • Severe Abdominal Pain
    • Head trauma in elderly, on blood thinners, and or with loss of consciousness and/or vomiting
    • Severe neck or back pain especially after trauma
    • Knife or gunshot wounds
    • Vision loss
    • Vomiting or coughing blood
    • Fever of 100.4 or higher in <3-month old child
    • Poisoning
    • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
    • Sexual assault

    Emergency department care is not “first come first served”. A patient’s condition may be deemed to be more urgent in nature and that they be treated sooner than someone who arrived before them. Patients with signs of a suspected heart attack or stroke, or who have suffered severe trauma will get top priority.

    When to call 9-1-1

    When faced with an emergency situation, you may not know if you or your loved one should go to the ER or call 9-1-1.

     “You should never drive yourself if you are having severe chest pain or severe bleeding. But when in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call 911,” according to Dr. Black.

    For certain medical emergencies such as a heart attack or stroke, calling 911 for an ambulance is always the best decision because paramedics often can administer life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

    When to use urgent care

    Recent studies indicate that nearly half of ER visits not resulting in being admitted to the hospital for more advanced care occurred because the patient’s doctor’s office was closed. 

    “Many people use the ER as an extension of their primary care provider,” Dr. Black said. “It’s where they go for after-hours care for minor ailments. They don’t realize they have other options, such as urgent care.”

    One way to determined what kind of care you will need is to ask yourself one simple question:

    Is this something that will not cause permanent damage if not seen immediately?

    Patients should use the urgent care for the following non-life threatening conditions:

    • Ear infections
    • Eye injuries
    • Simple cuts or burns
    • Abdominal pain - mild
    • Sprains and strains
    • Sore throats, fever, cough, colds, or flu
    • Insect and animal bites
    • Rash or allergic reaction
    • Burning with urination
    • STI concerns
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Back pain
    • Possible broken bones

    Be Prepared

    Whether you’re going to urgent care or the ER, it’s to your benefit to bring a list of all the medications you or your loved one take, including over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and supplements. It’s also good to keep a list of allergies you have and medical procedures you may had in the past.

    “It’s helpful for doctors to know as much about your previous medical history as possible,” Dr. Black said. “This will help them to make the best decisions related to your care.”