I received a lot of feedback about my column in The Post and Courier describing the challenges with guaranteeing EMS presence at high school football games. Surprisingly few people were upset at the current arrangements.
Instead many readers wanted to know what first aid and emergency supplies teams and sports facilities should have on site in case of emergency. I thought that an appropriate follow up to that column then would be to create a list of these necessities to help sports organizations prepare for serious injuries. I discussed the idea with Dr. Keith Borg, MUSC adult and pediatric emergency physician and event physician for Tour of California and USA Procycling Challenge.
Automated external defibrillator (AED): “Any time you have a large number of people, participants or spectators, AED’s should come to mind,” Borg states. AED’s might not be necessary at every event, but if a facility will host games and tournaments on a consistent basis, organizers should consider buying one.
If purchasing an AED is cost prohibitive, teams or facilities should consider arranging for an athletic trainer to bring one. Also, Borg points out that police cars often have them. If police will be present on site, that might be an acceptable temporary solution.
Communication: A cell phone, or access to a nearby landline if no cell service exists, is an absolute must. But just as important as the ability to make a call is a plan. “A communication plan is Emergency 101 for organized events,” Borg argues. Organizers should know where the closest hospital is, and they should know the phone number of that hospital. “It can be very helpful for people to call the emergency department and give us notice that someone seriously injured is on the way, but they can also call us and ask questions.”
After those first two essential items, Dr. Borg looks at supplies used for traumatic injuries versus those used for illness. For trauma, he offers a few suggestions.
Cervical collar: Have cervical collars in several sizes in case of head and neck injuries. Adjustable collars are acceptable but not as good in his opinion.
Bandage supplies: Stock gauze bandages, gauze rolls, and tape for rapid application to wounds.
Extremity splints: Prepackaged, moldable splints can be applied to fractures quickly and stabilize the extremity to more comfortably move and transfer the athlete.
As for acute illnesses during sporting events, Borg points out one situation where the first few minutes are critical – anaphylactic shock. This is an event where an athlete or spectator has an allergic reaction that is quickly life threatening. “You never know when a kid will fall in a mound of fire ants or have a severe bee sting.”
Injectable epinephrine: Parents and athletes should know about severe allergies and have an EpiPen themselves. But facilities should consider keeping one. Often a physician or nurse is needed to obtain them, and organizers should keep them accessible but safe.
Dr. Borg and I think this list represents at least a good start for items critical to prepare for sports emergencies. If paramedics and ambulances are present, then some of these items might be unnecessary. But as I wrote recently, EMS coverage is not always possible. These items might help to stabilize athletes with critical sports injuries in the minutes before paramedics arrive.
Do you have any other suggestions for supplies necessary at sporting events or at sports facilities? Do you think some of the items above are unnecessary? Let me hear from you!