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Not knowing Is Not An Excuse

The FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon Fortnight, International Cricket and Open Golf Championships promise to provide an exciting festival of sport.  Each event also stimulates the dreams and ambitions of thousands of youngsters all hoping to be the next iconic superstar in whatever sport they want or feel able to participate.  Consequently, we know that, as the summer progresses, the interest in all of the sports mentioned will increase and the participation numbers will do the same.

However, with an increase in participation comes the heightened risk of injury, as a direct result of playing or training for each sport.  Many of these injuries will be minor and may be a result of either direct or indirect trauma.  The indirect trauma is often associated with poor technique, inadequate equipment and inappropriate facilities.  Sadly, the majority of those that take up each of the above sports will not be playing them in facilities that are similar to those that have inspired them to do so.

Unfortunately, injuries do and will happen.  It is how they are dealt with at the time that becomes relevant.  Similarly, whilst most may be minor, as mentioned above, there are those that are not and, unfortunately, occur more often than previously thought.  The number of head injuries seen during the recent World Cup and International Rugby matches exemplifies this.  Therefore, whilst all of the elite level events will have highly trained medical staff available, it is those that are played in the recreational areas that concern me and, as many colleagues will know, have done for a long time.  Even as the knowledge on injuries and their consequences increases, it seems that many sports governing bodies still do not acknowledge or listen to the advice being given to them, from the evidence that is being gathered by sport and exercise medicine practitioners globally.

Not every team, event or training activity will be covered by a trained medical practitioner, therapist or first aider.  Therefore, what happens if someone sustains a head or neck injury or, even worse, stops breathing or has a cardiac problem?  Is there anyone there who should know what to do, how to do it and could act immediately to potentially save a life?  Surprisingly, the answer is actually yes!  In nearly all of the circumstances mentioned there will be a coach. 

Therefore, why is it not mandatory for all coaches to be trained in and become proficient in basic lifesaving skills?  Surely coaches have a duty of care and responsibility and should not be dependent upon the provision of medical assistance and/or first aiders, especially as it is unlikely that this facility will be available at every training and/or coaching session that they undertake.  Whilst this may be so at a higher or elite level, it will definitely not be applicable at the grassroots level where the majority of coaches will start their careers.

I know that some sports do include CPR and BLS within their coaching qualifications but I believe that it should be mandatory for all sports.  However, where sports are dependent upon technical committees rather than experienced medical practitioners making the regulations, which include those for the medical provision and cover required at matches and training sessions, these issues will always be regarded as being not appropriate or important.  Sadly they only become important when major deficiencies are highlighted; a young sportsperson dies because there is no one there to save their life, or a career is finished because a series of seemingly innocuous head injuries and concussions were not dealt with appropriately at the time they occurred.

Therefore, as we watch these major events unfold and get excited as the climax for each one approaches, please spare a thought for the potential problems being initiated.  This is not about every coach becoming a sports medicine practitioner or therapist, but having the basic skills to do what is necessary to save a life and prevent major injury.  So - to those sporting bodies that already have a mandatory clause within their coaching qualifications for these skills to be taught – well done!  For those that don’t – take note!

Enjoy the summer of 2018 and all of the amazing sport that is on offer.

Posted: July 07 2018
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