Ask Dr. Furmanek: When Should I See A Sports Medicine Specialist For An Injury?

Dr. Jeffrey Furmanek explains the roles of the family practice doctor and the sports medicine specialist, with suggestions to help you chose the best care practitioner.

If you have an injury that isn’t improving and is interfering with your daily activities, medical care is in order. Should you make an appointment with your family practice doctor, or a sports medicine specialist? Dr. Jeffrey Furmanek offers guidance about the roles of the family practice doctor and the sports medicine specialist to help you make the best choice for your care.

“As a sports medicine specialist, I regularly consult with family practice—or primary care—doctors,” says Dr. Furmanek, a sports medicine specialist with Summit Orthopedics. “In fact, most of my patients are referred to me by family practice doctors. Understanding the roles of the family practice doctor and specialist can make it easier to evaluate the level of care you need when you or a family member is injured.”

Usually, Dr. Furmanek explains, people go to their family practice doctor first to have an injury evaluated. This is the doctor they know; there’s already a relationship of trust. “I’d be happy to see patients at this early stage too,” says Dr. Furmanek. “I think it’s good for patients to know that whether you see a family practice doctor or a specialist initially, the treatment approach will probably be the same: we’ll try rest, ice, and possibly other conservative treatments to resolve the problem.

If an injury doesn’t respond or improve within two weeks, an MRI may be considered to further evaluate the injury.

“Although either a general practitioner or a specialist can manage patients with rest and ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, once an MRI becomes necessary, it’s time to see a specialist,” Dr. Furmanek explains. “We have the depth of expertise to determine the next best appropriate step for that injury. Is it a partial tear or a full tear? Is it a torn cartilage, ligament, or tendon? Not all tears necessarily need surgery. It is the specialist’s job to discern the most appropriate treatment based on the specifics of the patient’s diagnosis.

“Anyone familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers knows about the 10,000-hour rule,” he continues. “According to Gladwell’s research, it takes 10,000 hours of focused experience in a certain area to develop technical expertise. When you consult an orthopedic specialist, you are working with a physician who has concentrated expertise in treating your injury. This level of expertise isn’t necessary for a minor injury that is going to heal within a week or two. But when the problem is more serious, a specialist’s care insures that you’ll get the most experienced and informed treatment.

“Another advantage of seeing a specialist in a subspecialty practice like Summit Orthopedics is that we have subspecialists in every area of orthopedics. If a patient sees me with an injury that’s outside of my own expertise, I can expedite a referral within our practice to make sure that patient gets the very best care without delay.”

Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care

From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Jeffrey Furmanek, D.O.

    “My training has taught me to understand that the human body is a complex sum of its parts with an innate ability to heal. My role as an orthopedic surgeon can be an important part of this natural process.”

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