With preseason practices now underway and the start of winter sports around the corner, the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) recommends that athletic health care providers conduct a "Time Out" before athletic events to ensure that an emergency action plan (EAP) is reviewed and in place.
"This is a necessary step that can help save lives and reduce the risk of acute, chronic or fatal outcomes on the playing field," says Ron Courson, ATC, PT, NREMT-I, CSCS, associate athletic director of sports medicine for the University of Georgia Athletic Association, and author of the NATA's statement. "Emergency situations can arise at any time during a practice or game. Athletic trainers, sports medicine doctors and other health care providers must provide the best possible care to reduce those risks."
The new official statement is adapted from a concept developed by Courson, along with Bert Mandelbaum, MD, and Lawrence J. Lemak, MD, using a terms common in both sports and medicine: coaches and athletes call time outs to gather a team together and discuss game strategies or to call a play, while, in medicine, doctors take a time out immediately before every surgery when all operating room participants stop to verify the procedure, patient identity, correct site and side.
Professional sports leagues, including Major League Soccer, used the "Time Out" program this fall to test its effectiveness and acceptance of the concept. "This protocol is critical to the immediate care of athletes at any level of sport," says Mandelbaum, orthopaedic surgeon with Santa Monica (Calif.) Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group and the Chan Soon Shiong Sports Science Institute, and medical director for the World Cup. "This should be a required and universal program."
"Development and review of an emergency action plan guarantees that a coordinated approach is in place," adds Lemak, founder of Lemak Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics in Birmingham, Alabama, who also serves as medical director of Major League Soccer and is on the medical advisory board of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
"Due to the relatively low incidence rate of catastrophic injuries, we may develop a false sense of security. This is a vital and necessary protocol that protects the athlete and requires the medical team to be prepared under any circumstance," Lemak says.
The official statement provides that:
- Athletic health care providers meet before the start of each practice or competition to:
- review the EAP;
- determine the role and location of each person present (i.e. athletic trainer, emergency medical technician, medical doctor);
- establish how communication will occur (voice commands, radio, hand signals); what is the primary and secondary or back up means of communication.
- An ambulance is present at all high-risk events:
- The medical staff knows who is assigned to call for the ambulance;
- If it is on stand-by, where it is located, and what routes it can take to enter and exit the field in the least unencumbered manner;
- In the event of transport, a hospital has been designated and is the most appropriate facility for the injury or illness;
- All emergency equipment is available, and has been checked or tested to confirm it is in working order and fully ready for use. For example, all sports medicine team members need to know where automated external defibrillators are and how to use them.
- Any issues that could potentially impact the EAP (construction, weather, crowd flow), and plan accordingly and in advance of sports participation.
"These recommendations give players, parents, administrators and team staff peace of mind and ensure that there is a cohesive and immediate plan in place to manage and treat injury," adds Courson. "It's a win-win for all involved."For an electronic version of the NATA official statement, click here.
Source: National Athletic Trainers' Association
Posted August 1, 2012; updated November 13, 2012