Sep 6, 2017
Emergency Planning in Athletics: The Checklist to Success

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Samantha E. Scarneo, MS, ATC, Director of Sport Safety, Korey Stringer Institute
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The number of high school athletic participants has nearly doubled in the previousforty years and injury rates have also risen with this growth. Fortunately, the impact of high school athletic associated injures can be considerably reduced with adherence to best practices guidelines. An emergency action plan (EAP) is a specific safety guideline that optimizes the efficiency and management of serious injuries. Emergency Action Plans are concrete written plans that outline what should be done in the event of a catastrophic injury. EAPs should include the following components:

1. Every school or organization that sponsors athletics should develop an EAP for managing serious and/or potentially life threatening injuries. The development of a written EAP is the first step to making high school sports safer. It is important to ensure the EAP is clearly written and comprehensive enough to outline the exact steps to take place following a catastrophic injury.

2. The EAP should be developed and coordinated with local EMS, school public safety officials on site medical personnel or school medical staff and school administrators. In the event of a catastrophic injury, all parties who may respond to the injury site should be included in the development of the plan.

3. Every school should have a written EAP document distributed to all staff members. Coaches and other athletics staff members should be notified of the EAP steps and the location of the EAP. Additional distribution to event staff should be considered.

4. The EAP should be specific to each venue and include maps and/or specific directions to that venue. Each venue that holds athletics practices, competitions or other school-sanctioned events should have their own EAP. The considerations per venue changes dramatically for items such as location of emergency equipment, EMS access to the injury location, and communication services.

5. On site emergency equipment that may be needed in an emergency should be listed. Equipment such as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), cold-water immersion tubs, splint kits, and first aid supplies, should be outlined with their location in the EAP.

6. The EAP should identify personnel and their responsibility to carry out the plan of action with a designated chain of command.

7. Appropriate contact information for EMS should be clearly outlined in the EAP.

8. Facility address, location, contact information etc. should be identified in the EAP with the venue specific information.

9. Plan should specify documentation actions that need to be taken post emergency. Following an emergency, it is not atypical for institutions to have procedures that need to be documented. Each organization should include information that outlines what should take place after the emergency.

10. EAP should be reviewed and rehearsed annually by all parties involved. Similar to distribution of the EAP, the EAP should be rehearsed by those parties involved.

11. Healthcare professionals who will provide medical coverage during games, practices, or other events should be included. Athletic trainers, or other properly trained healthcare professionals should be included in the development and implementation of the EAP.

Numerous policies and recommendations exist to improve sport safety, including specific recommendations for EAPs. Despite these recommendations, data suggest only 47% of state high school associations and legislation require high school athletic programs to have an EAP in place. Furthermore, the extent of the implementation of these guidelines at the local secondary school level is currently unknown. With the rising incidences of sport-related death in secondary schools, there is a critical need to evaluate current implementation of EAPs at the secondary school level nationwide. This knowledge can help us identify barriers and facilitators to the proper management of serious, possibly catastrophic, injuries, as well as guide future efforts to promote best practices in sports.

For more information on emergency action plans, please visit the Korey Stringer Institute at


Adams WM, Scarneo SE, Casa DJ. State Level Implementation of Health and Safety Policies Pertaining to Preventing Sudden Death and Catastrophic Injury in Secondary School Athletics.Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017 (accepted)

Andersen J, Courson RW, Kleiner DM, McLoda TA. National athletic trainers & association position statement: Emergency planning in athletics. J Athl Train. 2002;37(1):99-104.

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