Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and their role in athlete safety recently gained public prominence in the wake of the January 2023 cardiac arrest incident involving Damar Hamlin, an American football player for the Buffalo Bills NFL team. However, they have been growing in use in professional and other high level sports since the late 20th century in response to recognition of the need for prompt medical care in sports related emergencies.
In this post, we will first look at what these plans are and then list the essential components of an emergency action plan. We will end by suggesting 6 important reasons why every team should consider creating one.
What Is An Emergency Action Plan?
An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in sports medicine is a comprehensive plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a medical emergency or injury during a sporting event or practice. The purpose of an EAP is to ensure that appropriate and timely care is provided to an injured athlete, potentially saving lives and minimizing the severity of injuries.
Starting in 1995, when they were made mandatory for each team participating in the NFL, EAPs have spread to most professional sports organizations in North America. At present, they are in use by the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey League (NHL), the Major League Soccer (MLS) among others. Each of these organizations has developed and implemented their own EAP, tailored to the specific demands and risks associated with their respective sports.
What Are The Essential Components Of An EAP?
In general, the key components of an EAP are as follows:
Establish clear lines of communication and identify key personnel responsible for initiating the emergency response. This may include coaches, athletic trainers, medical personnel, and administrators. Ensure that contact information for emergency services and medical professionals is readily available.
Emergency personnel roles and responsibilities
Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in the emergency response, such as who will call for help, who will provide immediate care, who will direct emergency medical services to the location, and who will coordinate with hospital personnel, if necessary.
Emergency equipment and supplies
Identify and ensure the availability of necessary emergency equipment and supplies, such as first aid kits, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), spine boards, and other specialized equipment based on the sport or activity. Regularly check and maintain the functionality of these items.
Provide detailed information about the sports venue, including maps, access points, and any potential hazards or obstacles that may impede emergency medical personnel. This information helps responders quickly locate and access the injured athlete.
Establish procedures for safe and efficient transportation of injured athletes to medical facilities. This may involve designating specific individuals responsible for coordinating transportation, ensuring clear pathways for emergency vehicles, and providing necessary medical information to emergency medical personnel.
Emergency medical services (EMS) coordination:
Establish protocols for communicating with EMS personnel, including providing accurate location details, information about the nature of the injury, and any specific instructions or precautions to be taken.
Practice and regular drills
Conduct regular EAP drills and simulations to familiarize the personnel involved with their roles and responsibilities during an emergency. This helps ensure a coordinated response and identifies any areas that require improvement or modification.
Documentation and evaluation
Maintain records of any incidents, injuries, or changes made to the EAP. Regularly review and update the plan based on feedback, lessons learned, and any changes in personnel or venue.
As mentioned above, an EAP should be tailored to the specific needs and requirements of the sporting organization, taking into account the available resources, the nature of the sport, and the level of play.
It is essential that all personnel involved in the sports program are educated about the EAP and receive training in first aid and emergency response procedures.
Why Every Team Should Consider Creating An Emergency Action Plan
Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) should be a priority for every sports team for the following 6 reasons:
- Prompt and appropriate medical care: EAPs ensure that in the event of a medical emergency or injury, immediate and appropriate medical care can be provided. Having a structured plan in place allows for a coordinated response and reduces the time it takes to initiate emergency medical procedures. This can be critical in situations where timely intervention can save lives or prevent further complications.
- Player safety and well-being: EAPs prioritize the safety and well-being of athletes. By having a comprehensive plan, sports teams can mitigate risks, identify potential hazards, and implement preventive measures. EAPs address not only acute injuries but also potential medical emergencies, such as cardiac events or severe allergic reactions, allowing for a swift and effective response to ensure the best possible outcome for the athletes.
- Standardized protocols: EAPs provide standardized protocols and procedures for emergency situations. This ensures that all personnel involved, including coaches, medical staff, and other team members, are aware of their roles and responsibilities during an emergency. Clear communication and a coordinated response help minimize confusion and optimize the efficiency of the emergency response.
- Compliance and liability: Many sports organizations and institutions, including professional leagues, universities, and schools, require the implementation of EAPs as a part of their safety and risk management policies. Having a well-documented and regularly updated EAP helps teams meet compliance standards and demonstrates their commitment to providing a safe environment for athletes. It also plays a role in minimizing potential liability risks for the team or organization in the event of an emergency.
- Preparedness and confidence: EAPs ensure that sports teams are prepared to handle emergencies. Regular training, drills, and simulations help familiarize team members with their roles, improve their knowledge of emergency procedures, and enhance their confidence in responding effectively during stressful situations. Being prepared and having a plan in place can help reduce panic and enable a swift, well-coordinated response when an emergency occurs.
- Public perception and reputation: Effective emergency preparedness reflects positively on sports teams and organizations. Demonstrating a commitment to athlete safety and well-being enhances the public perception and reputation of the team, attracting athletes, sponsors, and supporters. It showcases a proactive approach to risk management and prioritizes the health and safety of the athletes as a top priority.
In this post, we have described the purpose of an emergency action plan and what its essential components should be. We have also presented 6 compelling arguments for each sports organization (including sports teams) to consider creating one that is tailored to its needs. In general, emergency action plans are vital for sports teams to ensure the immediate well-being of athletes, minimize risks, provide standardized protocols, meet compliance requirements, and build confidence in handling emergencies effectively.
We hope that this information has been useful. Please leave any questions you may have below and we will address them as soon as possible.