Pre-Hospital Care of
The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) reports that approximately 331,865 football players per year suffer injuries that cause practice or game time loss. Most of these injuries (72.5%) were classified as minor (resulting in less than 7 days time loss). Major injuries, sidelining a player for more than three weeks, accounted for 10.8% of all injuries. Of these injuries, only a small number (less than 1%) were spinal injuries that resulted in permanent impairment.
Spinal injuries are usually “minor” in nature but occasionally, a catastrophic spinal injury will occur. For this reason, an emergency action plan detailing proper procedures for dealing with a cervical spine injury must be instituted at each school. This plan should detail the actions of the Athletic Trainer, coaches, parents, administration, and EMS. The plan should also be practiced so that all parties involved know their part in the plan.
Due to the seriousness of these types of injuries, the NATA decided to take action. In May of 1998 the NATA sponsored a task force to develop a pre-hospital management plan of the physically active with suspected spinal injury. The purpose of this task force was to standardize the treatment of spine-related athletes.
Currently there is a disparity in treatment protocols for spine injured athletes. Many local emergency medical services protocols specify that a players helmet and shoulder pads be removed prior to transport to the hospital. The EMS protocols have failed to take into consideration how a players’ helmet and pads will aid in cervical stabilization. Many EMS services equate a football helmet to a motorcycle helmet, this is not an accurate comparison.
Also, a football, lacrosse, or hockey helmet was compared to a motorcycle helmet in terms of access to the ears and airway, this is also an incorrect analogy. A football, lacrosse, and hockey helmet has a facemask that can be removed to allow airway access, and the combination of shoulder pads and the helmet allow the cervical spine to stay in correct alignment, contrary to the motorcycle helmet. Athletic Trainers have been taught for the past few years to leave the helmet and shoulder pads in place. The only exception to this was if the helmet and shoulder pads prevented giving life saving CPR.
Due to these disparities, the NATA Inter-association Task Force for Appropriate Care of the Spine Injured Athlete was formed. The mission of the summit was “To develop guidelines for the pre-hospital management of the physically active with suspected spinal injury.” The task force unanimously endorsed the following guidelines.
“This task force encourages the development of a local emergency care plan regarding the pre-hospital care of the athlete with a suspected spinal injury. This plan should include communication with the institution’s administration and those directly involved with the assessment and transportation of the injured athlete.”
“All providers of pre-hospital care should practice and be competent in all of the skills identified in these guidelines before they are needed in an emergency situation.”
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Last Update for AthleticAdvisor.com: 10/24/2009 12:09:35 AM