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Although the name invokes athletes getting hurt on the field, a sports injury can affect anyone who is active, regardless of whether they play sports. Children, adults and even seniors are all susceptible.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS), a sports injury can “result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warm-up and stretching.”

Fractures, dislocations, joint pain, tendon tears, ligament tears, strains and sprains all count as sports injuries, NIAMS notes. How do you tell a strain from a sprain, though? How do you know if you just pulled a muscle or if you accidentally tore a ligament? You may need to contact a Chicago ortho and sports medicine specialist.

The doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication, physical therapy, or another means of treatment. You may even need surgery. Here is everything you need to know when deciding whether you need orthopedic care, including how to choose the right orthopedic surgery specialist and how to prepare for surgery.


How Do You Know When You Need to See a Chicago Orthopedic Doctor?

1. The Injury Hasn’t Gotten Better

You can attempt to treat a sports injury yourself if it isn’t too serious. As soon as you feel you may have injured something, stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Take a break and assess your pain.

If injured, Glacial Ridge Health System in Minnesota recommends the R.I.C.E method: “rest the injury or sore area, ice it to reduce pain and swelling, use compression by applying an elastic or ACE bandage to help decrease swelling and elevate the injured or sore area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.”

Some important things to check as the injury progresses: Have you tried this for at least two days and found the pain hasn’t decreased? Has the swelling increased? Is the area now tender to the touch? If so, it’s time for more intensive treatment.


2. You’re in More Pain

Depending on the severity of the injury, sometimes the R.I.C.E method just doesn’t put a dent in the pain. While it can be quite frustrating to rest for two days and not feel better, it’s even more disconcerting if the pain worsens in that same span of time. By this point, the injury will have probably impacted your quality of life, preventing you from working or engaging in basic daily tasks.


3. You Have Other Complications

If you try to tough it out and ignore your injury, you could experience painful complications. Glacial Ridge says some of these complications include

  • an inability to move the injured body part,
  • bruises around the injured area,
  • and an increase in swelling, especially if the joint is affected.

Symptoms may be more severe later in the day. If experiencing such complications, contact a Chicago orthopedics & sports medicine doctor right away, as some of these could be serious.

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How Do You Find Orthopedic Surgery Specialists in Chicago?

1. Go Online

When looking for an orthopedist Chicago residents can start with a simple Internet search, but make sure to only look at professional medical online resources. Samuel Greengard at Healthline recommends searching through the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Just narrow down the results to Chicago orthopedics and sports medicine doctors.


2. Search Through Your Health Insurance Provider

Undoubtedly, surgery is expensive. If your sports injury is so severe it requires surgery, you’ll want to know whether your health insurance provider covers it. You may have to pay for some portion of the procedure out-of-pocket depending on their coverage, but your health insurance provider should pay for most of the cost if the surgeon you’ve found is in your provider’s network.


3. Use Referrals

When narrowing down options for orthopedics Chicago residents should also rely on referrals. Start with a family doctor, Greengard at Healthline recommends. “You can expand your list of possible surgeons if you reach out to other doctors and physical therapists, such as doctors who share an office with your general practitioner,” he says.



Preparing for Orthopedic Surgery

1. Avoid Taking Some Medications

Depending on the medications you take, your doctor could recommend temporarily quitting these before surgery to prevent excessive blood loss. The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) suggests taking a break from some herbal or over-the-counter medications, birth control, hormone replacement therapy drugs, some steroids, NSAIDs and Aspirin.

If you’re not sure whether you should continue taking a medication leading up to your surgery, ask your doctor or surgeon.


2. Start a Physical Therapy Program

As you recover after surgery, you will likely have to undergo physical therapy to aid in healing the injured body part and restore movement. However, your surgeon may also recommend physical therapy in the weeks leading up to the procedure. “This can prepare patients for surgery by getting them familiar with assistive devices and improving balance,” says AOFAS.


3. Expect Tests

Your surgeon may insist on a few pre-admission tests before the procedure. Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia notes that blood tests are common, as are physical exams, X-rays and heart exams, AOFAS adds. These tests let a surgeon know the overall state of the patient’s health and whether they’re eligible for the surgery.


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