JEMS editor-in-chief A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, traveled to Greensboro, N.C., for Emergency Medicine Today 2016, held Sep. 30–Oct. 5. The 43rd annual conference was presented by the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services and provided valuable opportunities for education in both emergency medicine and disaster preparedness.
Medical directors from across the state meet each year at the conference for three hours (over two sessions) to discuss their issues and provide clinical updates to EMS providers and managers. One of the key discussion points was the treatment of injured athletes. The directors agreed that services need to read and follow national guidelines on care and packaging of injured athletes.
In discussions on best treatment for concussion victims, the presence of athletic padding and helmets continues to be a consideration for immobilizing athletes. Many in the group felt that it is the responsibility of EMS to have working knowledge of all athletic equipment, particularly how it goes on and how it should be removed so that the athlete is kept as safe as possible.
One step that EMS providers charged with working athletic events can take is to arrive early to survey the setting, meet with athletic trainers, observe the equipment being worn and its application process and prepare all necessary equipment on the sideline. Services should also learn each event’s Emergency Action Plan, and transport patients to the appropriate facility.
A.J. Heightman Deborah Jalali and Jennifer O’Neal, both paramedics with Washington-Tyrrell County (N.C.) EMS.
When transporting injured athletes, the directors noted that the preferred lift method is an eight-person lift: three people per side and one person at both the head and feet. This method is to prevent the patient from “log rolling” during the lift, which is not good for a patient wearing athletic gear.
All athletic gear should be removed from the patient prior to transport. This requires at least three people. Spinal motion restriction (SMR) using a cervical collar and backboard is still recommended, as this is a good movement strategy to get the patient from Point A to Point B. It is OK to remove backboards once the patient is on a stretcher. The medical directors also pointed out the Ferno Scoop Stretcher and Hartwell CombiCarrier are highly recommended and should be in frequent use in the field.
The takeaway from this session is that all on-field EMS personnel need training on how to remove athletic gear and package an athlete for transport. For more information on how to accomplish this, see Prehospital Treatment of Athletes Wearing a Helmet and Shoulder Pads in the October 2015 issue of JEMS.