Pregame Safety Check

September 7, 2018

At South Dakota high school sporting events, athletic officials have a new responsibility this year. According to an article from The Daily Republic, all games must have a pre-contest medical timeout with athletic officials, coaches, and administrators.

“It’s formalizing what we’ve always said but at the same time, it’s written down and it’s one of the rules,” John Krogstrand, South Dakota High School Athletic Association (SDHSAA) Executive Director, said. “We’re bringing the officials into the plan on a given night and it’s not just an assumption that the duty of care is being taken care of. It’s probably not anything that the casual fan will notice but it’s important.”

The meeting won’t need to be long—even less than a minute could suffice. The important thing is that the meeting answers five questions that are focused on personnel and facilities. The answers will identify the game administrator for each team, whether there’s a qualified medical professional on site, if there’s an emergency action plan for the venue, whether there’s an automated emergency defibrillator (AED) on site, and where the emergency exits are located.

Athletic trainers may fill the medical professional role, though a paramedic, doctor, nurse, or emergency medical technician would also be acceptable. An athletic director, school principal, or superintendent could fill the role of the game administrator.

“It gives a little more structure, so that there’s not as much assumption there,” Cory Aadland, Mitchell High School Activities Director, said. “There’s a little more explicit direction of covering those questions.”

The answers to the questions will be recorded by school officials, and the SDHSAA will then receive reports for corrective action if follow-up is needed. However, the main emphasis is on formalizing the process that’s likely already in place within many schools.

“We want to emphasize the schools that are doing it right,” Krogstrand said. “It’s kind of like how we have fire drills and fire extinguishers and we have fire alarms to take care of people and this is sort of along those lines.”

One of the focal points of the medical time-out is the AED systems. The number of AEDs in schools has increased in recent years, but the pre-contest meeting will ensure they’re readily available if needed.

“If that AED is in the school office or principal’s office and it takes [two to three to four] minutes to get that, that hurts the chances of survival,” Krogstrand said. “There are truly a life-saving a device as we have and they’ve been manufactured so that anyone could use them. We need to make sure they’re available.”

The idea for the pre-contest meeting is based on plans that exist in Arizona and Oregon, and it came from the SDHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Although it won’t eliminate all risk, the preparation may help with handling emergencies if they happen.

“We’ve seen cases where a little planning can help save a life and makes for a safe event for everyone,” Krogstrand said.


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