Have you ever attended a college basketball game or maybe an NCAA soccer match and seen a player go down with an injury? How was it handled? Was there an ambulance on site? Did the athletic trainer deal with the injury? Did it appear to be a seamless operation between the college's staff and EMS providers?
The response plans that those colleges have in handling the health and safety of their student athletes largely vary. For example, during my time as an EMT for Penn State's University Ambulance Service, we provided varying levels of coverage from a single EMT with a first aid kit and AED up through an entire medical staff including doctors, PAs, nurses, EMTs, Medics, multiple transport unit and a command staff. This was all dependent on the size of the event as well as the perceived risks.
Many of your fire and EMS companies cover a collegiate, or even a high school campus. Part of your pre-planning should consist of a conversation with school officials as to how they provide EMS during sporting events. While the fire and EMS company is generally not responsible (as the school must take on primary responsibility), it is helpful to be good partners with the large institutions in your first due.
Over the years, Pennsylvania has unfortunately had litigation that dealt with college athletes being injured, or even dying, during practices and games. A recent case involving a suit from two junior college football players re-affirmed that colleges have a general duty to "its intercollegiate athletes to provide preventative measures in the event of a medical emergency." Feleccia v. Lackawanna College, 2017 PA Super 44. In Feleccia, two players were hurt during practice and subsequently treated by the only "medical personnel" on site which were two non-certified athletic trainers. In the 2010 case of Kleinknecht v. Gettysburg College, a lacrosse player tragically died from a sudden cardiac arrest where no immediate care was available.
Ultimately, it is vital to have the discussion with your schools (both high school and college) to understand what they provide and whether the services are tailored to the type of sport and the specific risks. This is an excellent way to gain good PR with your area's institutional partners and prevent tragedies involving young people. A few key talking points:
- Does the school have athletic trainers present for sporting events (including practices)?
- Does the school have AEDs which are readily available at these events?
- Is there a plan in place to have an ambulance present at high risk events?
- If an ambulance is not present, what is the procedure for summoning EMS and ensuring they have good location information and immediate access?