Protective equipment and constant repetitions of proper sports techniques prepare many of the area athletes for the sports they play. But no matter how much they prepare, sports injuries can and do happen.
So, on Aug. 26, Indian River trainer Todd Fuhrman made certain that he and his colleagues were on the same page by hosting an injury seminar at Indian River High School.
Area emergency medical technicians convened alongside Indian River’s football field Saturday morning for the first in a series of training exercises Fuhrman has planned to combat inefficiency in dealing with athletes’ injuries.
They spent the better part of an hour discussing and coming to a consensus on the proper procedure for dealing with spinal-cord injuries from football and lacrosse. According to Fuhrman, football spinal injuries are the most prevalent “because of the nature of the sport.” But it was clear that such injuries could happen to any athlete in any sport.
“It can happen at any point,” Fuhrman said of spinal injuries. “It can happen in field hockey, a soccer player running into a goal post, or a baseball player sliding into home plate. So it’s our job to be aware and be on the same page.”
Fuhrman went over pad and helmet removal techniques, as well as stabilization techniques, with Indian River football player Sean Lynch serving as his visual aid.
If a player were to get knocked unconscious or become paralyzed Fuhrman went through the list:
(1) First he would receive indication from the players that there is a problem and, in the most severe situation (paralysis or unconsciousness), Fuhrman would signal additional emergency personnel with a fist signal. If the player is face-down, Fuhrman would use a small mirror to check the player’s pulse and see if they are breathing.
(2) From there Fuhrman would ensure the athlete isn’t bleeding and make sure they have an airway.
(3) If a player is face-down, then Fuhrman would stabilize the player’s head by crossing his arms across on either side of their head. Two emergency personnel members would position themselves on either side of the athlete and a fourth person would cross the player’s legs to ensure a smooth roll onto the back. If the player is lying on the left side of their face, for example, then the emergency personnel would flip them, slowly and carefully, in that direction.
(4) Once stabilized on their back, the mouthpiece would be removed.
(5) The facemask would then be removed, by slipping in a tongue depressor to detach the ear pads, giving the emergency personnel more room to maneuver the helmet. The facemask can be detached with a power drill. If the player has complications involving breathing, past the initial observation, then the shoulder pad straps can be cut. New helmets have Velcro padding, so the tongue depressor could then be used to slip the entirety of the padding inside out.
Fuhrman and the staff on hand made mention that by no means is anyone else allowed on the field under any circumstance. At IRHS, the injured player would be shuttled out the back field entrance, at the Clayton Avenue exit, to the nearest hospital, depending on the severity of the injury. A paralyzed player or one suffering life-threatening injuries would be head out on a helicopter to either Salisbury or Wilmington.
Despite having only a handful of emergency personnel on-hand for the instructional-seminar, Fuhrman vowed to continue and expand the injury seminar to include all sports and educate as many as possible.
“It’s good to continue education because things change a lot medically,” Fuhrman said. “It’s good to be ahead of the game.”
Fuhrman noted that he’d like to meet at least 10 more EMT crews for the seminars — even if he has to go to them and do dry runs in the whole process.