BUCKHANNON — As football practice started last week for area schools, local emergency responders and athletic trainers spent time in the classroom Sunday night preparing for a potential medical emergency.
The course on “Emergency Care in Athletics: Caring for the spine injured football player” was held in the Rockefeller Center and brought together personnel from Upshur County EMS, Buckhannon Fire Department, Star City Fire Department, along with athletic trainers from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Lincoln High School and Grafton High School.
Lead instructor Brian Potter is employed with Tygart Valley Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, which sponsored the class along with the West Virginia Wesleyan College Department of Athletic Training and West Virginia Public Service Training-Clarksburg.
“I think it’s invaluable simply because our goal with managing athletics emergencies is to function in a team concept, so by having EMS and certified athletic trainers working together, that gives us the best chance at giving the athlete/patient the best chance for a successful outcome,” Potter said. “In this case, we were training for a catastrophic cervical spine injury, but that could be cardiac arrest, severe difficulty breathing [or] allergic reaction, and it is going to hopefully be managed jointly — especially when an athletic trainer is present.”
The emergency responders and athletic trainers rotated through three stations.
The first station focused on learning to remove a face mask quickly to access the airway if there is an immediate need for managing the airway.
Second, the groups learned how to remove the helmet and shoulder pads safely to prevent further injury. Third, the group practiced how to lift and slide a patient onto a board using the best evidence-based techniques available in 2017.
“We want to raise awareness as to the appropriate level of medical coverage for student athletes, whether it is at the high school or college level,” Potter said. “Part of what we talked about is a concept called medical time out, where we get anybody there to provide medical care or emergency services prior to an event.
“If there is a football game at the high school or here at the college we want members of the athletic training staff and EMS that is doing standby, security from the college or sheriff’s deputy at high school, lead official from the game, any representative — team physicians ... we want them to be present 30 minutes before the game to talk about who is who, what their roles are within the system, what equipment is available at the field, both coming from a sports medicine staff as well as the emergency services with a standby ambulance.”
Potter said the questions to ask are how it will be communicated when EMS is needed on the field, what gates need to be unlocked, the best directions for getting into the facility, etc.
The college has a principles of emergency action plan for Rockefeller Center, which Potter likened to pre-planning for fire departments.
“We want that to occur in the athletics arena to get help to people the quickest,” he said.
But Potter said that pre-planning should take place at youth football or the little league diamond just as much as in a school setting.
Dr. Dan Martin, head of the exercise science department at Wesleyan, said, “What’s great for all of this is that it facilitates communication between the different groups that cover athletics.
“It gives us a chance to discuss different techniques with current evidence and research and gives people a chance to practice so we can all practice together.”