Orthopaedic injuries and symptoms you shouldn’t ignore | SummitDaily.com

Orthopaedic injuries and symptoms you shouldn’t ignore

As residents and visitors are out enjoying the trails more than ever, it’s important to remember that without immediate treatment, many orthopaedic injuries could worsen over time.
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VSON’s Urgent Care in Frisco offers several great advantages:
  • Staffed by experts in orthopaedics, with an orthopaedic surgeon available at all times.
  • Open until 7 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • X-ray available on-site.
  • Significant cost savings compared with a visit to the ER.
  • Exposure to other patients and staff is limited. Since VSON is only seeing acute orthopaedic patients that have been screened for flu-like symptoms, your exposure to people seeking care for other conditions such as flu or COVID-19 is greatly diminished.

VSON’s clinics in Vail and Edwards also take orthopaedic urgent care walk-ins during operating hours: Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Throughout the pandemic, some Summit County residents chose to self-quarantine – holding off on orthopaedic and other medical treatment to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19.

While some injuries might not require immediate care, many injuries could become worse over time or even lead to further problems down the road. 

Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery (VSON) wants to remind patients that safety protocols to protect staff and patients from COVID exposure are being followed at our offices and should offer additional peace of mind when seeking orthopaedic treatment during this time.

VSON Doctors Richard Cunningham, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in trauma, shoulder and knee, and Erik Dorf, an orthopaedic trauma, shoulder, hand, elbow, and wrist specialist, share why the following injuries require immediate attention. 


A fractured bone is immediately followed by severe pain and swelling. 

“You may feel bones shifting and grinding against one another. Patients with lower leg fractures will be unable to put any weight on the lower leg without severe pain,” Dr. Cunningham said. “Fractures require urgent surgery to properly align the bones, prevent future problems, and return you to activities as soon as possible.” 


Dr. Erik Dorf, an orthopaedic trauma, shoulder, hand, elbow, and wrist specialist at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery.

There is a significant amount of swelling and pain associated with sprains, which are common in the foot, ankle, knee, and wrist. These injuries can progress to serious injuries if not identified, said Dr. Dorf.

“Often, what might be considered a mild sprain that should get better with time can actually be something more serious,” he said. 

In the wrist, for example, this might include a fracture to one of the small bones or an injury to an important ligament stabilizing the wrist joint.

With knee sprains there are three serious concerns:

1.   Swelling in the knee joint: Swelling indicates some sort of disruption of the normal functioning of the knee joint. This means the joint is not sitting properly in the knee and must be treated by a specialist.    

2.   Impacted range of motion and mechanical issues: If you cannot flex or extend your knee or it feels “stuck,” seek immediate medical attention. This could point to a meniscus or cartilage injury, which will get worse over time.

3.   Feelings of knee instability: If your knee feels unstable, wobbly, or like it is going to give out, you need to be evaluated. Ligamentous injuries to the knee can cause significant problems down the road if not evaluated and treated in a time-sensitive manner.

Dr. Richard Cunningham, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in trauma, shoulder and knee at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery.

Dislocations and joint instability

With joint dislocations, Dr. Cunningham said there is usually an obvious deformity and patients realize that a joint is not properly aligned. 

“There is also severe pain and inability to move a joint through range of motion,” he said. “It is important to have any joint dislocation properly lined up back into its normal anatomic position so that the torn ligaments can heal properly and so there are no long-term problems with the joint.”

A joint that continues to dislocate should be seen and treated urgently. These recurrent joint dislocations can severely limit activity and function, cause pain, and cause permanent damage to the cartilage in a joint. This could result in early arthritis of a joint if the joint is allowed to repeatedly slide in and out of place.


“An infected joint is followed by traumatic swelling and severe pain when trying to move or bear weight on the joint,” said Dr. Cunningham. “Redness and rapid skin swelling are also signs of an infection.” 

“It is imperative to treat infections urgently. They can spread, causing systemic illness and even death if the infection becomes overwhelming,” he said. “Many infections respond to antibiotics, but some infections require surgical irrigation and removal of damaged tissue to rid the body of infection.”


Loss of feeling, sensation, or strength in a localized area of the body are symptoms of a pinched nerve. Pinched nerves often cause severe radiating, electrical-like pain. This should be evaluated urgently as a pinched nerve may need to be surgically decompressed to alleviate pressure on the nerve.

“If a compressed nerve is pinched for long enough, there may be permanent damage to the nerve resulting in life-long pain, numbness, and/or weakness,” Dr. Cunningham said.

VSON wants to remind our mountain community that safety protocols are being followed at our offices to protect staff and patients from COVID exposure. Patients seeking treatment (both urgent and otherwise) can meet our renowned team of orthopaedic specialists with peace of mind when seeking treatment during this time.

A visit to VSON is safe during COVID-19

VSON is seeing patients for office appointments, telehealth visits, walk-ins, and urgent care – providing a range of options and flexibility for anyone concerned about orthopaedic care during COVID-19. 

VSON’s COVID-19 precautions include:

  1. Screening all patients at the door.
  2. Limiting the number of patients in a room.
  3. Sanitizing all exam rooms after every patient visit.
  4. Mandatory masks for all patients and staff.

5.  Telehealth visits for patients who are uncomfortable coming in.

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