Pregame Medical Prep

March 7, 2019

Following in the footsteps of Arizona, South Dakota has become the second state in the U.S. to mandate a pre-game medical meeting prior to all high school sporting events. The purpose is to make sure officials, administrators, coaches, and medical personnel are on the same page in case an emergency occurs.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) put its Pre-Contest Medical Timeout rule in place at the start of the academic year after it was recommended by the group’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC). “Awareness and accountability are both really important when it comes to planning for emergency situations, and the timeouts usually take less than a minute,” says Tryg Odney, Sports Medicine Outreach Manager at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., who serves of the SDHSAA SMAC. “In the past, we’ve had a lot of recommendations that weren’t rules, but now we’ve formalized it.”

The idea for a pregame medical meeting was first introduced by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) in 2012, and the Arizona Interscholastic Association has been issuing a “Pre-Contest Medical Preparedness Card” to every official and high school coach across the state since 2017-18, which includes four questions related to emergency protocols. South Dakota has taken a similar approach by requiring game officials to ask the following five questions before every athletic contest:

1. Who is the game administrator for each team?

2. Is there a qualified medical professional on site?

3. Is there an emergency action plan in place for the venue?

4. Is there an automated emergency defibrillator on site?

5. Where are the emergency exits/entrances for the facility?

Game officials have been tasked with asking the questions and reporting the responses to the SDHSAA since they are a constant at every athletic event. An athletic director, school principal, or superintendent typically is the “game administrator,” but if none of them are present, the head coach fills the role. Similarly, when a qualified medical professional is not on site, the head coaches are responsible for carrying out medical duties.

If a host school is unable to answer in the affirmation to the third and fourth questions, the official reports this to the SDHSAA, which follows up with the school to help it set up an emergency action plan and purchase an AED. “The activities association can sanction schools if they’re not abiding by the rules, but first they would try to fix any deficiencies,” says Odney. “If a school doesn’t have an AED, there are grants that can make it easier to purchase the equipment. And if there is no emergency action plan, there are lots of resources, like AnyoneCanSaveALife.org, that can help people create plans.”

For the most part, Odney says the pre-game medical timeouts have been welcomed by everyone involved. “We’re still in the early stages, but it’s been a positive thing, especially for administrators,” he says. “It provides another piece of safety to their school and their students.” 

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