For skiers and snowboarders, this has been a great winter in Michigan—plenty of snow on the slopes up and down the state.

But along with the thrill of the sport comes the risk of injury. And the Spectrum Health Medical Group Orthopedic Urgent Care clinic is seeing a big increase in snow- and ice-related injuries.

“We’ve seen a real spike in snowboard and ski injuries, and slip-and-fall injuries,” said Adam Geller, PA-C. “Hand, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle—all the things that you fall on.”

Geller, a physician assistant with Spectrum Health Medical Group Orthopedics, helped establish the specialty clinic in 2016. Today the clinic, housed at 4100 Lake Drive SE in Grand Rapids, sees more than 300 patients a month.

That includes people treated by appointment during regular office hours and those who take advantage of walk-in hours on evenings and Saturdays.

Since the start of this winter, the Orthopedic Urgent Care clinic has seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in weather-related injuries compared to the autumn months.

“Last week we had two ski team kids come in right off the slopes at 6 p.m.,” Geller said. “Their parents heard about the clinic and drove them straight here.”

Faster treatment

One-third of the patients who have come in because of snow- or ice-related injuries have needed surgery.

“We have the power to put (patients) in the schedule with the specialist that they need to see,” Geller said, noting the way the healing process is streamlined for those who use the specialty clinic. “You’re getting matched up with the best person to treat your problem,” whether it’s an injury of the shoulder, knee, hand, wrist, foot or ankle.

In addition to orthopedic surgeons, the clinic also schedules follow-up appointments with pediatric orthopedic surgeons.

Quick access to specialized services is the clinic’s big advantage, Geller said. The list of clinic offerings includes:

  • Expert treatment of joint and bone injuries: fractures, sprains, dislocations and simple lacerations
  • A full inventory of specialty splints, casts and other orthopedic supplies
  • A mobile X-ray machine that displays live images to assist in setting fractures
  • Easy access to follow-up appointments with orthopedic surgeons who specialize in specific injuries
  • Post-surgical orthopedic urgent care

A visit to the Orthopedic Urgent Care clinic replaces a trip to a family practice provider, regular urgent care clinic or emergency department—and provides more focused, efficient care, Geller said.

This specialized approach to urgent care saves patients time. And the after-hours option lets them come in on evenings and Saturdays without missing work.

“For the patient, it’s faster service, it’s more knowledgeable service—you’re getting someone who actually works in the (orthopedics) field,” he said.

Lower co-pays

The clinic also saves patients money, according to Peter Jebson, MD, department chief of orthopedics for Spectrum Health Medical Group.

“This initiative provides real value for our patients and community,” Dr. Jebson said. “Access is expedited, expertise is provided and the cost of care is cheaper than a visit to the emergency room, where co-pays are significantly higher.”

Geller cautions Michiganders to watch their step in these last weeks of winter. But if someone does take a spill on the snow or ice, Ortho Urgent Care has their back.

“We’ll get you the right care right away,” he said. “I think we offer something special.”