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West Jordan Journal

UHSAA schools have action plans to treat sports injuries

Feb 06, 2023 02:55PM ● By Greg James

Training staffs have a plan in case of injury: Injuries to student-athletes can happen at any time. The school’s administration is prepared to handle it. (Photo courtesy of Hunter Cyprus baseball)

Damar Hamlin, defensive back for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field of a Monday Night football game. He was in cardiac arrest. Players, coaches and fans stood in silence watching the response of field safety workers. At high school games in Utah, many schools have an emergency plan in place to help keep players safe.

“You have always got to prepare for that type of injury,” Cyprus High School trainer and exercise science and sports medicine teacher Cole Kissick said. “We have an Emergency Action Plan in place.”

An EAP is developed to ensure the safety of and provide the best immediate care for all student-athletes. Athletic injuries can occur at any time and at any level of participation. Having an EAP in place ensures that these injuries are managed and cared for appropriately.

“Each venue we have here at Cyprus has a specific plan. Our main gym, the football field, swimming pool and aux gym each have different plans. Our administration, athletic directors, police officers and training staff go through it at the first of each year. These are for the worst situations, our ‘oh crap’ moments,” Kissick said.

The UHSAA has mandated health examinations prior to participating in a sport. Each student athlete must present a certificate signed by a physician stating that he/she is physically able to compete in school athletics.

The UHSAA specifically targets heat stroke and sudden cardiac arrest in its handbook. The handbook states “cold water immersion tubs” are used for onsite cool down. It also includes AEDs for cardiac arrest situations.

The EAP documents the individuals responsible for the equipment and documentation of the training. 

“It is what I prepare for. We walk through it. We have AEDs in the hall and in the cart, it all comes down to preparing. It is scary and not something we ever want to do, but we are prepared,” Kissick said.

Hamlin fell to the ground after making a routine tackle in the first quarter of the football game. He went into cardiac arrest and was administered CPR on the field. His heartbeat was revived by the training staff. 

After nine days and two hospital stays, he has since been released to his home in Buffalo, New York. His recovery could take weeks to months. It is unknown why Hamlin’s heart stopped. That injury is unusual. The chest must be struck in a brief moment (about 20 milliseconds) while the heart is relaxing. 

“I show sports injuries in my class, and we talk about what they have to do. Prevention is most of my job. I deal with lots of ankle sprains. After an injury, we work with the players to get them playing again. They still need to do things to make sure they don’t reinjure themselves,” Kissick said.

Playing sports can be inherently dangerous. The Hamlin injury made some people think about how dangerous sports can be.

“I do think we need to have better equipment,” Utah girls tackle football coach Crys Sacco said.

“I would think twice about letting my kids play football,” Sofia Broadhead said.

“There are car accidents every day, but I don’t stop driving,” Jennie Best said.

Parents have many different opinions.

“I have had some honest conversations with people (concerning safety). We have stepped back and tried to explain what actually happened. No parents have said anything, but we have talked with the coaches and they can understand why we (trainers) do what we do. Sometimes I can be mean, but at the end of the day, everyone looks at us if someone is on the floor, wondering what we do,” Kissick said.

The UHSAA asks that the school’s EAP focuses on training, equipment and maintenance, actions taken during an emergency, and post-event evaluation of the emergency response.