There is no question that planning a sporting event at a new location can be a daunting task.
Unfortunately, planning for medical coverage often occurs last minute, when arguably it is the most important task that should be addressed. Early planning, securing appropriate local medical providers, and obtaining suitable emergency equipment can help to mitigate stress throughout the planning process.
When planning medical support for a sporting event, starting early is always better. Appropriate medical coverage should be a priority to ensure that the event is adequately staffed to minimize potential negative outcomes. The timeline for planning may vary depending on the event type and size.
For large scale or complex events, such as multi-field or multi-facility tournaments or marathon races, it is recommended that medical coverage be secured at least six months ahead of the event. This gives ample time to safeguard the appropriate number and type of medical professionals available. If medical coverage is organized too close to the date of the event, there is a risk of not finding enough resources. Additionally, the cost for services may increase as the event gets closer.
Another point of consideration is that venues may host a variety of events throughout the year and what typically works for one type of event may not be suitable for another. For example, the resources and equipment needed for a youth soccer tournament may vary greatly from that of a professional soccer game, even though both hosted at the same venue. No two events are the same and having a medical partner who understands the distinctions can help guide the planning process.
Location, event type, size of event, and weather are all things to consider when planning for emergency equipment. Once a medical provider has been secured, they can help to address equipment needs and may be able to provide some of the necessary equipment, such as medical supplies, treatment tables, emergency splints or spine boards. This should be a collaborative process that is discussed when setting event expectations.
At a minimum, AEDs should be located throughout the event site, with available staff who have been trained in CPR and AED use. A designated medical venue, such as a tent or athletic training room, should be centrally located and well-marked for both participants and spectators.
If an event is staged over a large area, it may be beneficial to have multiple medical sites located throughout the venue in addition to the central medical facility. Having additional locations allows medical personnel to have shorter response times to potential emergency situations and also gives a visual location to where the medical providers are stationed. Two-way radios are helpful when connecting medical providers and event staff who are separated by large distances. Golf carts or ATV-type vehicles may also be helpful with transportation.
Weather and temperature should always be considered when planning for emergency equipment. For events in warm-weather areas, shade tents, cold water immersion tubs, and access to additional water and ice are crucial for treatment of heat-related illnesses and should be made available to attendees. If possible, an indoor venue that offers air conditioning, heat, or general protection from the elements should be available as well.
While it may not always be financially feasible to have everything on an equipment wish list, it is always possible to be prepared. Having an event-specific Emergency Action Plan (EAP) ensures that event and medical staff alike are ready for potential emergencies and know how to handle them appropriately.
An EAP should outline the preferred chain of command for the event and determine the best course of action for any incident that may occur. Outlining expectations ahead of time for medical personnel can help to reduce risk and guarantee that all stakeholders are on the same page. A medical time-out at the start of each event is a great way to review expectations and the EAP with all event staff.
Additionally, designating a lead medical provider or a medical host for the event can improve lines of communication and give other providers an internal resource to go to with questions. Lastly, any incidents that occur throughout the event should be documented accordingly and reported to the appropriate person as designated in the EAP.
Ultimately, the more prepared the better, when it comes to medical planning. Having appropriate medical coverage, equipment, and an established plan for emergencies will help reduce the risk of liability and improve the overall experience for event planners and participants alike.
Kellie Loehr MS, ATC/LAT is a licensed athletic trainer for MedStar Health and US Lacrosse. The article above is excerpted from Kellie’s longer article published online by Sports Destination Management.