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    August 2015

    Athletics Emergency Action Plans

    Athletics Emergency Action Plans

    An emergency action plan (EAP) is an institution’s road map for responding to an athletic emergency. The lack of an EAP, or the failure to practice an existing plan, can aggravate sports injuries and lead to legal claims.

    An athletic emergency is usually one that endangers the life or limb of students, including:

    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Spinal injury
    • Heat stroke
    • Diabetic coma
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Sudden cardiac arrest
    • Lightning strike
    • Open fracture (bone through the skin)
    • Uncontrollable bleeding

    UE recommends that institutions create a written EAP for any venue where students exercise, not just facilities that host interscholastic or intercollegiate sporting events. Steps to establish and implement an effective EAP include:

    • Develop the plan in consultation with experts. Emergency medical services providers are an excellent source of risk management advice. They should also be on-site at high-risk events. A local attorney can advise your institution on laws or regulations that address emergencies. Health care professionals know best practices and are indispensable in an emergency.

    • Identify key personnel. The first people to respond to an emergency may include officials, coaches, certified athletic trainers, physicians, administrators, and employees who summon help or clear uninjured people from the area. Key personnel should be trained in the use of automatic external defibrillation (AED), cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, and prevention of disease transmission.

    • Specify needed equipment. American Heart Association guidelines state that AEDs are a component of basic life support. Others include emergency oxygen kits, long backboards for potential spinal injuries, airway management devices, and first aid supplies. Institutions may use small utility vehicles to transport injured students. Personnel should only operate devices for which they have been trained.

    • Establish a communication system. Responders should always have access to a working telephone or mobile communication device. Check communications systems regularly to ensure they are operational, and establish a back-up system. Personnel should know emergency phone numbers, the venue’s street address, and directions for getting there.

    • Post the EAP in a visible place at each venue. Anyone should be able to quickly and easily locate the posted EAP. Trained personnel can refer to it to guide their emergency response; uninjured spectators can use it to identify whom to call when trained personnel are not present during an emergency. The posted EAP should contain, at a minimum, the recommended emergency numbers, street address, and venue directions.

    • Practice the EAP for each venue at least annually. It is impossible to know whether an EAP works if it has not been rehearsed. For example, because one college had never practiced its EAP, trained personnel were unaware that neither ambulances nor utility vehicles could access the baseball field. An injured player was carried outside the field to a waiting ambulance, but too much time was wasted in the confusion.


    National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement
    Sample EAP from Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center
    Sample EAP from Whitman College
    Sample EAP from Greensboro Day School

    By Joe Vossen, JD, associate risk management counsel  


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