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Sports provide numerous valuable benefits to participants, but they carry risks, as well. According to Safe Kids USA, more than 3.5 million children under 14 years old receive treatment for sports-related injuries each year 1. If you are a coach, trainer, active parent, participant or interested bystander in an organized sport, you may find yourself in the position of having to respond to an emergency situation. Knowing the appropriate emergency response to a sports-related injury will help you react quickly and effectively.
Common Sports-Related Emergencies
According to MedlinePlus, most sports-related injuries include bone and soft tissue injuries like sprains, strains, knee injuries and dislocations 1. Most of these injuries must receive treatment, but may not qualify for emergency response. Sometimes athletes experience a potentially life-altering injury, like a head or neck injury, near drowning, eye injuries, seizures or sudden cardiac arrest.
More injuries actually occur during practices, so if you're in charge, make sure you take the same safety precautions during practices as you would during games; always have emergency equipment available. Equipment like a spinal board, an automated external defibrillator, emergency oxygen and an emergency access phone could mean the difference between life and death.
In addition to having equipment available, you want to make sure that someone on site knows how to properly use the equipment. CPR and first aid certification classes will teach you and your team how to properly use basic emergency equipment, preparing you to respond in case of emergency.
First responders in an emergency situation have basic knowledge of CPR and first aid and know how to start handling an emergency. If you are the first responder, you must survey the scene, check the victim for life-threatening injuries, then for non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, and ensure that more advanced care arrives on the scene. As the first responder, you might enlist help from coaches, athletic trainers, players or bystanders to help you in your response or to control the crowd. The importance of the first responder can't be emphasized enough. If the injured participant needs CPR or is suffering from a life-threatening injury, the earlier care begins, the greater the chance of survival.
When handling an emergency, first check for consciousness, breathing, circulation and severe bleeding. If a head, neck or back injury is suspected, avoid moving the victim and try to maintain in-line stabilization of the head and neck, preventing further injury. As the first responder, you are responsible for sending another individual to call an ambulance and asking bystanders to get supplies, comfort family members or control the crowd. A fast response and clear leadership in an emergency can help prevent the confusion that sometimes arises in stressful situations.
It's important to proactively take steps to help prevent injuries from occurring during sports participation 1. Make sure that all the fields and facilities used during sporting events are well-maintained. Make sure participants undergo a thorough pre-participation physical to identify any underlying disorders, and ensure that all participants wear appropriate, snug-fitting safety equipment.
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