United States Sports Academy
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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Sport Emergency Action Plan: A Coach’s Duty

It is a coach’s legal and moral responsibility to plan in advance for catastrophic emergencies. A rehearsed catastrophic emergency plan is a crucial part of managing risk in sport. After the review of more than 200 catastrophic cheer injury reports between 1982 and 2009, one pattern stood out like a sore thumb: Cheer programs lacked a rehearsed catastrophic emergency plan. A review of other youth sports revealed a similar pattern.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation’s Panel of Experts recommends that each organization or institution that sponsors athletic activities or events develop, implement and rehearse a written emergency plan. Emergency plans should be developed by organizational or institutional personnel in consultation with local emergency medical services. Also, the program should build a rapport with local emergency medical services (EMS) and contact EMS ahead of time whenever you have an event, clinic, camp or competition.

While most injuries sustained during athletics or other physical activity is relatively minor, the potential for limb or life-threatening emergencies in athletics and physical activity can occur without warning. Proper management of these injuries is critical and should be carried out by trained health services personnel to minimize risk to the injured participant. The organization or institution and its employees and or volunteers can be placed at risk by the lack of a rehearsed emergency plan, which may be the foundation of a legal claim such as with cheerleader Ashley Burns and football player Max Gilpin.

The athletic health care team may be comprised of appropriate health care professionals in consultation with administrators, coaches, parents and participants. Appropriate health care professionals could be: certified athletic trainers, team physicians, consulting physicians, school nurses, physical therapists, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, dentists and other allied health care professionals.

Components of the emergency plan must include identification of the personnel involved, specification of the equipment needed to respond to the emergency, and establishment of a communication system to summon emergency care. Additional components of the emergency plan are identification of the mode of emergency transport, specification of the venue or activity location, and incorporation of emergency service personnel into the development and implementation process. Emergency plans should be reviewed and rehearsed annually, with written documentation of any modifications. The plan should identify responsibility for documentation of actions taken during the emergency, evaluation of the emergency response, institutional personnel training, and equipment maintenance. To register your emergency plan, go to cheerinjuryreport.com.

Additional training of the involved personnel should include automatic external defibrillation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, prevention of disease transmission, heat illness prevention, head injury return to play guidelines and the importance of injury reporting. To get started you may download the most comprehensive sport emergency action plan available for free at nationalcheersafety.com/emergencyplan.pdf and remember:

“Safety Doesn’t Hurt”