NATA Offers Guidelines for Emergency Planning in Athletics

Thursday, March 22, 2012
DALLAS, March 22, 2012 –The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) today provided an overview of guidelines for emergency planning in athletics. The guidelines are designed to provide physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, athletic staff, school administrators, institutional and organizational safety personnel and parents with recommendations for managing medical emergencies at all levels of athletics.
March is National Athletic Training Month. NATA’s theme this year is “Athletic Trainers Save Lives.”
“Although most sports injuries are relatively minor, life threatening injuries are unpredictable and can occur without warning,” said Ron Courson, ATC, PT, director of sports medicine at the University of Georgia who has helped to develop EAP guidelines. “Due to a relatively low incidence rate of catastrophic injuries, those tasked with overseeing organized athletics often develop a false sense of security.”
According to Courson, proper management of emergencies is critical and should be handled by trained personnel. “Sudden death can occur during any physical activity or at any level of participation, and heightened awareness associated with the nature of the incident and its management is critical.” He suggests these steps for proper EAP preparation:
  • Educate and train: the EAP should be a written document and considered a blue print for handling emergencies and reviewed annually.
  • Ensure the document can be easily understood and distribute to all medical personnel, school administrators and athletic staff.
  • Address the appropriate location of andmaintenance of emergency equipment and supplies (including automated external defibrillators, spine boards, etc.).
  • Determine appropriate use of personnel and first responders during an emergency.
  • Be specific to each athletic venue, as well as develop and coordinate in consultation with local emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, school public safety officials, on-site first responders, administrators, management, and staff.
  •  Provide detailed information about ways to immediately communicate athletic health emergencies to medical services (e.g., land lines and mobile phones).
  • Include specific and very clear venue directions to avoid confusion with regard to transport of the injured individual.
“All personnel involved with the organization or sponsorship of athletic activities share a professional responsibility to provide for the emergency care of an injured athlete. The absence of an EAP is the most frequent basis for litigation,” said Courson.

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“The importance of being prepared when emergencies occur cannot be stressed enough,” he added. “An injured athlete’s survival depends on the expertise and preparation of athletic trainers and other health care providers. For that reason alone, it is imperative that those responsible for athletic teams invest in organizational ownership of the EAP, and review and rehearse it annually.”