Emergencies on the Sports Field

April 1, 2013

Tonight everybody is talking about Kevin Ware from the Louisville Cardinals after a gruesome injury ended his season tonight on national television. If you missed it, you can easily find pictures and videos online if you so desire. He suffered a compound fracture of both his tibia and fibula which required surgery to repair. But it is important to highlight the care he received immediately following the injury and recognize the importance of the Sports Medicine Team and the Emergency Action Plan that was put into action.

If you watch the video, you see coaches and players on the bench ducking away immediately as they see the injury occur up close. The athletic trainers on the bench do just the opposite as they immediately spring into action. One of the first things they did was to cover it up with a towel so others wouldn’t have to see it. Then they work to calm down Ware as they further assess the injury. At that time, the host medical staff had sprung into action providing assistance in the form of athletic trainers, physicians, and paramedics. After splinting the leg, the sports medicine team placed him onto a backboard and then onto the stretcher to be taken to the ambulance. He was taken to the hospital and has had surgery.

This is the NCAA on the biggest stage. It’s easy to expect they have the best medical teams on-hand ready for this type of injury. How would this have played out at the high school level? Or the youth level?

How can other organizations be ready for something like this?

  • Hire a Certified Athletic Trainer and have him/her available for practices and games.
  • Have an Emergency Action Plan that is rehearsed on an at least annual basis.
  • Maintain emergency equipment on-site.

I think the first point is very important. Having somebody trained and ready for emergencies is crucial. As pointed out above, the athletic trainers for Louisville were attending to the injured athlete before many spectators even knew what had happened. In an emergency, seconds count and having somebody onsite is important. For high-risk sports such as football and hockey it would also be advisable to have a physician onsite for additional medical support and likely an ambulance staffed with EMTs or Paramedics.backboarding

Having an Emergency Action Plan is also very important. Knowing who will do what in this situation only makes things go smoother. Additionally, phone numbers should be included on this list as well as directions into the specific venue. Each sport and each venue should have its own EAP. Every coach and administrator should know this plan and be prepared to execute it.


Lastly, maintaining emergency equipment is important. Dr. David Geier recently discussed this topic on his weekly podcast but some of the items that I believe are important are below:

  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
  • Vacuum Splints
  • SAM Splints
  • Backboard with Cervical Collar
  • CPR Mask
  • Oxygen?
  • Knee immobilizer
  • Crutches
  • Compression Wraps
  • Arm Sling

That’s just a small sample of emergency equipment I believe is necessary to have available. Sport-specific equipment may also be added as deemed required.

Each sport and each venue is going to have its own requirements. But it’s important that teams are prepared for emergencies.

Are you prepared?


Every Athlete Deserves an Athletic Trainer #AT4ALL


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