Is the Emergency Room the Best Place for an Ankle Sprain? San Francisco Ankle Expert Explains - DOC

Is the Emergency Room the Best Place for an Ankle Sprain? San Francisco Ankle Expert Explains

San Francisco Emergency Room

San Francisco Emergency RoomAnyone who has ever suffered a bad ankle sprain wonders how to get the best treatment as fast as possible.  Many limp to the Emergency Room. The following is the classic Bay Area tale of an ankle sprain and the experience that goes along with a trip to the San Francisco ER. 

Rushing down the Dipsea Trail, fog trailing lightly through the redwoods, Craig is out for his favorite run. But with one slight misstep, his foot lands in a hole and his ankle rolls out from under him. By the time he feels his ankle give way, his arms are already out-stretched to brace for the fall. The trail is soft and nothing hurts but his ankle.  

Brushing off sand and eucalyptus leaves, he notices the ankle starting to swell.  Throbbing pain begins to build into a crescendo. He gets up and slowly hobbles back to  the car. By the time he reaches home in Mill Valley, he can barely walk. He tries to figure out if he should head straight to the ER or call his family physician in Sausalito. 

Not wanting to bother his doctor with “just an ankle sprain” he heads to the ER in Marin. After a full half day of waiting he sees an emergency room doctor who says,  “your x-rays don’t show a broken ankle, but it looks like you have a bad sprain. The nurse is going to give you an ankle brace.  You should see an ankle expert if it doesn’t get better soon.”

A week later his ankle is still swollen, the foot and toes are black and blue and he can still hardly walk, let alone run. To make matters worse, he gets a bill for almost $1,500 for the ankle x-rays and emergency room visit. He wonders if there is a better way and searches online for the best ankle treatments in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

When he finally does sees the ankle doctor, he is told he has a subtle break in one of the bones in his ankle called a lateral process fracture. It needs to be treated. The doctor explains that there are several types of broken bones that often get missed and misdiagnosed in hospital emergency rooms. Without the proper care, his ankle would just continue to ache. He realizes he just wasted over a thousand dollars and a week of his time with the ER visit. 

The unfortunate reality is that every single day, over 10,000 suspected sprained ankles show up in the ER. While an emergency room may be the best place for someone with a heart attack, it isn’t the best place to get treatment for a sprained foot or ankle. 

One study conducted at the University of Utah showed that emergency room physicians and family practice docs often missed the majority subtle x-ray findings that suggest complicated foot fractures. In fact, surgical podiatrists were 80 times more likely to notice these fractures. If noticed in the ER they are often misdiagnosed as sprains. 

The current standard of care at emergency rooms is to take x-rays of the ankle to make sure there is no obvious fracture. Then the ER doc sends the patient hobbling away with an ankle brace and instructions to see an ankle specialist like an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist. 

The problem is that delayed treatment often leads to delayed recovery. The delayed treatment leads to continued ankle pain, and even unstable ankles that degenerate into ankle arthritis.  

Today there are sports medicine doctors and ankle sprain experts who reserve spots in there schedules for ankle sprains every day. These doctors treat ankle sprains like real emergencies.  While a rolled ankle may not be the sort of emergency that emergency rooms were designed for, an ankle sprain is an emergency to a runner. Active people need strong pain-free ankles.  They need to find the best ankle sprain treatment in order to get rid of the swelling and get back to running pain free. 

If you have an ankle sprain, you can skip the emergency room wait just by searching for a local ankle sprain expert. As long as you will need to see a specialist anyway, why not see the best ankle doc to begin with!  The true ankle experts are orthopedists and podiatrists. Podiatrists only treat feet and ankles. Because of this, they have the most specialized knowledge. 

If you sprained your ankle, you should see a true ankle specialist today. Not only will you get the most thorough evaluation, you can also skip the 6 hour ER waiting time. In addition, you can save a small fortune by avoiding the emergency room bill. 


Dr. Segler is a San Francisco based foot surgeon and nationally recognized foot fracture expert. In 2004 he won an award from the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons for his research on the accurate diagnosis of difficult to identify fracture patterns in the foot called Lisfranc’s injuries (also called tarsometatarsal fracture dislocations). In 2005 he won an award from the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons for his research on the accurate diagnosis of difficult to identify fracture patterns in the ankle called Lateral Process Fractures. He is also the inventor of the patented Tarsal Joint Distractor which is a surgical instrument designed to afford the best surgical exposure of the tarsometatarsal joint complex when performing foot fracture repair surgery. Dr. Segler has won multiple awards from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association for his medical research related to foot and ankle conditions. If you suffered an ankle sprain that may need surgery, you can feel confident in the quality of care you will receive from San Francisco’s ankle expert. He offers house calls for those with ankle injuries who have a tough time getting to a podiatry office. If you have an ankle sprain and just have a question about whether or not it needs to be treated, you can reach him directly at (415) 308-0833.