Many high schools and colleges have on-site, certified athletic trainers available for injuries. This is a wonderful asset for home games, but teams often travel throughout a season, and athletic trainers may not be provided by the host schools. How should coaches and parents prepare for injuries?
Fortunately, there are preventative measures when athletic accidents occur on the court or field. For severe injuries, such as broken bones or spinal trauma, immediately call the paramedics at 9-1-1. For minor injuries, such as sprains or scrapes, athletes can delay treatment until they have access to a trainer or doctor.
First aid checklist
Coaches should always carry a first aid kit, especially when teams travel for away games. Below are some items to include in your first aid checklist:
- Athletic tape – three rolls with 1 ½” measurements – serves a dual function for injury protection and equipment assistance.
- Pre-wrap protects the skin before using athletic tape, and some athletes use it as a soft headband to pull back hair.
- Latex and latex-free gloves protect the caregiver from blood or bodily fluids.
- Sterile gauze cleans and controls blood or bodily fluids. It also reduces the risk of infection.
- Assortment of bandages stops blood flow from minor cuts or scrapes.
- Nose plugs or small tampons control nose bleeding.
- Rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide – a cleaning agent for injuries and uniforms.
- Antibiotic ointment prevents wound or cut infections.
- Small mirrors or compact cases are used for athletes to see their reflection while putting in contacts.
- CPR mask/microshield protects the athlete and limits infection transmissions.
- Scissors and nail clippers are useful for tape removal or other cutting needs, such as opening bandages and other packages.
- Notepads and pens are used to write down a description of the event and record contact information.
- Phone list for parents, hospitals, athletic trainer and athletic director is used to notify these contacts in the event of an injury.
Helping an injured athlete
Coaches, teammates or parents can treat acute sports injuries by utilizing the R.I.C.E. method before seeing an athletic trainer. Prior to starting the R.I.C.E. method, move the injured athlete out of danger to prevent further damage.
Rest – Encourage the athlete to avoid all physical activities and rest for a minimum of two days. For strains or sprains, the athlete should avoid placing weight on the injured area for 48 hours so joints have time to heal.
Ice –Ice reduces pain and inflammation. Cover an ice bag with a towel to protect the skin and apply it on the athlete’s injured area for 10 minutes; then remove it for 10 minutes. Have the injured athlete repeat this procedure as often as possible for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury.
Compression – Wrap the athlete’s sore area with an elastic medical bandage, such as ACE bandages, to decrease swelling. Ask athletes if they feel numbness, tingling or increased pain below the bandaged area, because this signals that the compression is wrapped too tightly and interjects blood flow and may make the swelling worse. The wrap should be snug while still allowing expansion for blood flow and muscle movement. Seek professional help if the athlete needs the wrap longer than 48 hours.
Elevation – Elevate the athlete’s injured area above the heart while applying ice. This helps minimize swelling, internal bleeding and throbbing.
Remember, the R.I.C.E. method is a treatment for minor injuries. If the pain and swelling persist after two days, consult with a physical therapist or doctor.
Keeping your first aid checklist items handy and completing the RICE method will help protect your injury. For further treatment, you can also call Mercy Health’s 24/7 Sports Injury Hotline to set up an appointment with a sports medicine specialist who can see the injured athlete on the same day or the next business day.