Recently, I reviewed my emergency preparedness as a coach and decided to make some improvements. I made three key changes that I should be completed on an annual basis:
- attending a two-day Emergency First Aid/C.P.R./A.E.D. course;
- updating the “First Aid Binder” to bring to each practice, game and workout; and
- restocking the first aid kit.
These actions were undertaken for two critical reasons. Most importantly, it enhances my ability to respond to any emergency and provide the best possible chance for any player, coach or team member should a serious illness or injury occur. Secondly, coaches could be held liable for negligence and I feel that it is prudent for any coach, trainer, instructor or team official to minimize their risk. Emergency preparedness is also necessary to achieve National Coaching Certification Program certification.
Basketball accounts for 13.6% of all Canadian youth sports injuries which required emergency room visits. Common injuries that a youth basketball coach may have to treat with first aid include sprains and strains (29.2%), fractures (26.6%) and soft-tissue injuries (20.7%). Concussions account for 2.2% of all youth basketball injuries in Canada. Injuries are more likely to occur among athletes aged ten to fourteen years and males represent two-thirds of all basketball-related emergency room visits (Fridman, Fraser-Thomas, McFaull, & Macpherson, 2013, p. 3).
Negligence and Liability
In Canada, a finding of negligence occurs when someone who has a duty of care to ensure the safety of another person fails to meet the standard of care required by that duty and harm is suffered that is caused – or substantially caused – by that failure. Since a coach is responsible for athletes on the team, a relationship exists that creates a duty of care. The standard of care owed is that of a “careful and prudent parent” and a reasonably competent coach (Corbett, Findlay, & Lech, 2008, pp. 9-13).
The coach’s responsibilities begin before the accident occurs so health and safety should always be paramount (Centre for Sport and Law, 2003, p. 3). Practical steps that a coach should consider in order to meet a reasonable standard of care that appropriately manages risk includes: attaining coaching and first aid certification, obtaining insurance for team activities, inspecting equipment and facilities before use, preparing safety procedures (including the first aid kit) and communicating that information to team members, correctly instructing all skills and techniques, supervising all activities to prevent unreasonable risk of harm and following common sport-specific practices.
First Aid Binder
I think that coaches should keep a binder of current medical information near the first aid kit in an easy to access but secure location. Although the information is critical in the event of an emergency, it should remain confidential. My binder is kept in my coaching bag in a pocket with first aid supplies. It is red so that it can be easily seen and zips shut for privacy.
Preparing a risk-management plan should promote team safety and reduce the liability of a coach in the event of an accident (Centre for Sport and Law, 2003, p. 3). I selected these materials based on what was discussed in coaching and first aid certification courses, Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (O.P.H.E.A.), the “Making Head Way” and “Air Aware” e-Learning modules provided by the Coaching Association of Canada (C.A.C.) and other first aid kits that I have seen in sport and the workplace. Different documents may be more suitable in particular cases. I did not create forms when a perfectly acceptable form was available from a respected source and the documents that I created are simply guidelines.
Table of Contents
Emergency Action Plan
- Team Emergency Action Plan: A two-sided page compiled for each facility used by the team. The plan should include:
- the facility address and a map
- the address of the nearest emergency room and a map
- locations of the nearest public telephones, the Automated Electronic Defibrillation (A.E.D.) device and building staff who should be contacted
- directions from the doors to the gymnasium.
The E.A.P. will also delegate who will be in charge, who will contact E.M.S., who will get the A.E.D. and alternates. Finally, the plan will outline the procedure to be followed in case of emergency. Sample E.A.P.: Away Games Emergency Action Plan: A general document for travelling to games and tournaments within the city.
- Important Phone Numbers: A single page based on local information. You may wish to add:
- a nearby hospital with an emergency room
- the children’s hospital
- an emergency dentist
- a sports-medicine clinic
- mental health/drug abuse/withdrawal services
- the poison control centre
- a youth counselling hotline
- taxi numbers.
- First Aid Kit Inventory (C.A.C.)
- Summary of Team Contact Information: A single page that contains each player’s primary emergency contact and any critical medical fact.
- Player Permission (T.D.S.B.) and Medical Information (O.P.H.E.A.) Forms:
- Usually provided by the school or club.
- Keep two copies of the forms so that the extra form can be given to the E.M.S. responders when they arrive.
- The forms must include every player’s health card number.
- Coaches should also complete the forms.
- Basketball Health Questionnaire: A more detailed information that covers common sport-specific injuries that could be given to E.M.S. responders in case of emergency.
- Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport)
- Return to Play Guidelines (Parachute Canada)
- Return to Learn and Return to Physical Activity (Concussion) (O.P.H.E.A.)
- Documentation of Medical Examination (O.P.H.E.A.)
Asthma, Allergies and Anaphylaxis
- Athlete Tracker Form (Air Aware)
- Asthma Action Plan (Asthma Society of Canada)
- Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan (Food Allergy Canada)
First Aid Kit
All team personnel should be aware of the location of the first aid kit and its contents. Store the kit in an easy to access position in the equipment room or the same location in the gym (for example: the scorer’s table or the bench by the door). Create a written inventory of first aid supplies and replenish the kit regularly. The kit should contain:
- Non-latex gloves (keep extra gloves handy in other convenient places)
- Breathing masks
- Standard bandages, dressings, and other items (C.A.C.)
- Equipment for common sport-specific injuries (such as horseshoes and tensor bandages for sprained ankles in basketball)
- Disinfectant spray and wipes (to clean the court)
- An additional cable to charge the coach’s cell phone.
All team personnel should also know the location of the A.E.D. device in the building and where players who are asthmatic or allergic keep their inhalers and auto-injectors. Follow the instructions of the A.E.D. device and allow players to administer their own medication. Call 9-1-1 if it is an emergency or if you are unsure.
Blood on Jerseys
When a player has blood on their uniform, they must sub out until they change jerseys or the blood has been cleaned off. Minor stains could be cleaned (especially between games at a tournament) with the appropriate equipment). A special kit to help deal with blood stains on basketball jerseys should include the following items:
- Disinfectant spray (Hydrogen peroxide 3% solution)
- Nitrile gloves
- Paper towels or bandages to wipe the
- Disinfectant wipes
- An extra clean jersey (also known as a “blood” jersey)
- A ziploc bag to hold the used jersey
All individuals in a position of authority within the team (paid coaches or volunteers, head coaches and assistants) have a duty of care and should demonstrate prudence, professionalism and common-sense in their actions (Centre for Sport and Law, 2003, p. 11).
Planning practices and workouts thoroughly reduces the risk of injury. Placing some crucial security points at the top of the practice plan helps everyone remain mindful of their role in emergency preparedness.
If a coach is absent for a practice or team activity and arranges for another coach to substitute, the original coach as a duty to inform the replacement of the proper safety procedures for that facility. If this communication does not occur, that coach could be found contributory negligent in the event of an accident (Corbett, Findlay, & Lech, 2008, p. 27). Inform replacement coaches of the Emergency Action Plan and appropriate medical information and consider coaching and first aid certification when selecting instructors.
Seconds matter in an emergency situation. At school, we routinely practice fire drills and lockdown situations and everyone is calm when the alarm sounds or the announcement is made. Seconds save lives in an emergency situation to practice the E.A.P. to enable team members to remain calm and involve everyone in emergency planning. Like developing a skill, repetition builds confidence and improves performance under pressure.
Take ownership of safety for away game. Ask the coach who is hosting the game if they have an E.A.P. or create a basic E.A.P. for Away Games. Arrive early and survey the facilities. Make a note of the A.E.D., the exits and the telephone. Treat the facility with respect so it is safe for the next visitors.
- Centre for Sport and Law. (2003). Information Package on Legal Issues for Coaches. Retrieved March 22, 2014, from Sport Law and Strategy Group: http://www.sportlaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/a-General-Information-Package-on-Legal-Issues-for-Coaches.pdf
- Corbett, R., Findlay, H. A., & Lech, D. W. (2008). Legal Issues in Sport. Toronto: Edmond Montgomery Publications Limited.
- Fridman, L., Fraser-Thomas, J. L., McFaull, S. R., & Macpherson, A. K. (2013). Epidemiology of sports-related injuries in children and youth presenting to Canadian emergency departments from 2007–2010. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 5 (30), 1-6.