The Emergency Action Plan: a necessity for every sports organization

By now, most sports fans have heard about the cardiac arrest sustained on the field by Denmark's Christian Eriksen at the European Championship. Exceptionally fast and superbly skilled action taken by the medical staff (and Denmark’s captain Simon Kjaer) looks to have saved Eriksen’s life.

That medical team knew exactly what to do because they trained for it, had a plan, and executed because they practice what to do.

Sports teams at every level of play should take some lessons from that type of serious incident.

Today I’d like to write briefly about an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). The EAP is a written set of systems and processes that are followed if a serious health or environmental condition occurs. By having a plan and rehearsing it ahead of the season it gives an organization the best possible chance that appropriate steps are taken to address the situation. This is an area that is often neglected, even at the high school level where state laws might require that schools have and rehearse a plan. When something happens, you absolutely don’t want to be panicking thinking of “what do we do now” scenarios.

The club or recreational team

I wouldn’t expect a club or rec team to have a formal written plan, but there are three things that come to mind that will really help you a lot.

Have a first aid kit! This is a simple thing and I find that it’s rare that teams actually have basic first aid supplies.

If you travel to an away game or tournament, enter the local emergency service number ahead of time into your mobile. This would be a good thing for a team manager to do. The local number will often be faster than calling 911.

Coaches and managers should be trained in basic injury recognition.

Club directors and tournament organizers

Requirements for tournament organizers will vary by state and your national governing body for sport, as will the requirements for individual clubs. Here are some key elements you’ll want to include in your EAP:

Key personnel. Describe the emergency team involved when the EAP is activated and the roles of each person. How to communicate. What communication devices are available? Are there areas on the ground that don’t have cell service? What number do you call in an emergency? What specific information and directions to the venue must be provided to the EMS response team?

Emergency equipment. I strongly recommend you have an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) at your main fields or sports complex. The location of equipment should be quickly accessible and clearly listed. Equipment needs to be maintained on a regular basis.

Who to call for Emergency Transport. Describe the options and estimated response times for emergency transportation.

Venue directions with a map. This must be specific to each location and provide instructions for easy access to the venue. Entryways for emergency vehicles must be unlocked during tournaments or regular practices! Don’t be searching for keys (or the person who has them) during an emergency!

Roles of first responders. Establish scene safety and immediate care of the athlete, activation of EMS (emergency medical services), equipment retrieval and direction of EMS to the scene.

How to get an EAP

Most national governing bodies for sports have guidelines on the types of elements they recommend that you include in an EAP. I’d start with them, but unfortunately I find that most of them are lacking in specific steps you should take. However, here’s a template from the National Alliance for Youth Sports that’s an excellent starting point. It contains the key elements, and can be modified for your particular situation. Another guideline can be found here from USA Football.

Finally: Make sure you practice

Having an Emergency Action Plan and an Automatic External Defibrillator are fantastic and necessary steps, but you need to go beyond that to be truly prepared. At least every 6 months, key personnel should review the plan and actually know how to use the AED. Preparation is massively helpful.

Key Points

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a key document that outlines the specific steps taken by a club, tournament director, high school, or individual team in case of a serious health or environmental emergency.
Be sure to develop and practice your EAP before the season.

(Dr. Dev Mishra is in private practice at the Institute for Joint Restoration in Menlo Park, California, and Medical Director of Apeiron Life. He is the creator of the online injury management course and the Good to Go injury assessment App for coaches, managers, parents and players. This article first appeared appeared in the SidelineSportsDoc blog.)

1 comment about "The Emergency Action Plan: a necessity for every sports organization".
  1. Ken Garner, June 15, 2021 at 7:19 p.m.

    Thank you for this timely and critically important reminder.

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