Where to Go for Injury Treatment: Urgent Care vs. ER vs. Doctor’s Office

You’re playing in a basketball game and twist your ankle after coming down from blocking a shot. You’re not sure if it’s broken or just a sprain. All you know is that you’re in pain and there’s no way you can continue playing. It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday and your family physician’s office has just closed. What can you do?

Fortunately, there are many choices available if you’ve just been injured: Urgent care clinic vs. ER vs. your doctor’s office. The hardest part is deciding which setting is the most practical to visit for your injury.

Below is a breakdown of the benefits and disadvantages you can receive at each option.

Note: If you’re experiencing a life-threatening issue, you should call 911 immediately or visit the closest emergency room.

Emergency Room (ER)

The best part about emergency rooms is that they are capable of caring for any medical situation, and their doors are open 24/7/365. If there isn’t an orthopaedic specialist on-site to treat you, the hospital will call them in to assess your condition and move forward with a treatment plan.

However, ERs are notorious for extremely high costs and excessively long wait times – especially if you’re waiting to be seen for an issue considered less severe, like a broken bone or sprain. According to, emergency room services cost three to six times more than they do at urgent care clinics. You could also end up waiting an uncomfortably long time because of the priority and urgency hospitals give to life-threatening cases.

Doctor’s Office

If your injury can wait until the following day or possibly even longer, you also have the option of seeing your regular family physician. This is usually the preferred method of seeking treatment since your family doctor will likely be familiar with your medical history, just as you’ll be familiar with them.

But it’s important to consider that many offices adhere to traditional Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating hours, and appointments can book up quickly. So if your injury happened on a Thursday night, you may not be able to see your doctor until early in the next week. Plus, depending on your injury and the specialty training of your family physician, they still may need to refer you to an orthopaedic specialist to treat your injury.

Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care clinics combine the most personal benefits of your doctor’s office with the convenience of an emergency room. Many clinics offer extended and weekend hours, so injuries sustained by weekend warriors or during after-school or work activities can be treated quicker than they would at a doctor’s office.

Urgent care clinics also offer same-day or walk-in care, with wait times – if any – being only a small fraction of what they would be in an emergency room. And just like hospitals, these clinics have the ability to perform X-rays, MRIs, concussion tests, musculoskeletal ultrasounds and other procedures

Visiting an urgent care clinic that specializes in orthopaedics and sports medicine will also provide you with the personalization and familiarity that you may only expect from your family doctor. Facilities like Access Sports are staffed with sports medicine doctors with decades of experience, as well as athletic trainers and physical therapists that will be with you throughout your entire recovery.

When it comes to urgent care vs. ER for an orthopaedic injury like a broken bone, torn ligament or concussion, the most practical choice is to seek treatment at an urgent care facility. Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics provides patients with a variety of choices, operating two convenient walk-in clinics in Exeter and Portsmouth, NH, as well as several locations that accept same-day appointments. Our physicians, physical therapists and trainers are highly skilled experts in their fields and continue to pioneer new technologies that are revolutionizing the field of orthopaedics.

You can quickly request an appointment at any one of our locations here.