Emergency Planning in Athletics

Abstract & Commentary

Synopsis: Each institution or organization that sponsors athletic activities must have a written emergency plan.

Source: Andersen JC, et al. Journal of Athletic Training. 2002;37:99-104.

This position statement by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association informs those responsible for organization of sports medicine delivery systems about the need for emergency planning. Andersen and colleagues identify education and training, maintenance of emergency equipment and supplies, appropriate use of personnel, and the formation and implementation of an emergency plan as the critical components of preparation for emergencies. The Statement includes 12 points that should be considered in the development and implementation of an emergency plan. These points are based on an extensive review of the literature, and have been thoroughly reviewed by experts on emergency planning.

The Statement describes the components of an emergency plan as implementation, personnel, equipment, communication, transportation, venue location, emergency care facilities, and documentation. The keys to implementation are that the plan must be committed to writing, must involve education of key personnel, and must be rehearsed on a regular basis. All personnel involved in the plan should be trained to work together as a team and to use the equipment necessary to carry out the plan. The equipment should be on-site, quickly accessible, and in good working order. Access to a suitable telecommunications device must be assured, and essential emergency phone numbers readily available. A system for transporting the injured participant should include having an ambulance on site at high-risk events, and adequate accessibility to one at all other events. The venue location should be considered as related to accessibility to emergency personnel, the communication system, equipment, and transportation. The plan should incorporate access to an emergency care facility suitable for the nature of the injury. The written plan should include documentation of the plan itself, regular rehearsal of the plan, training of personnel, and maintenance of equipment.

Comment by David H. Perrin, PhD, ATC

One would think any physician or allied health care provider responsible for the administration of a sports medicine program would realize the necessity of having an emergency plan. Andersen et al cite in the statement recent statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association that at least 10% of member institutions do not maintain any form of an emergency plan. Moreover, less than two thirds of institutions provide adequate personnel for sports such as cross-country and track. The recent death of a Pennsylvania State University pole vaulter is a painful reminder of the importance of having appropriate medical personnel at all athletic events. The care provided to high school athletes and the need for emergency planning at this level of athletic participation should receive no less attention that at the collegiate level.

Andersen et al point out that failure to have an emergency plan can be considered negligence. In support of this statement, they reference several legal claims and suits in which defendants acted negligently and carelessly for not providing an appropriate emergency response. Andersen et al opinion that sports medicine professionals have both a professional and legal obligation to develop, implement, and evaluate emergency plans for sponsored athletic programs is well-taken.

This position statement by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association should be required reading for anyone involved in the delivery of sports medicine care. Reprints may be obtained by contacting the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Communications Department, 2952 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, TX 75247.

Dr. Perrin, Dean, School of Health and Human Performance, University of North Carolina—Greensboro, is Associate Editor of Sport Medicine Reports.

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