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Athletic Trainers Call for Emergency-Prep Reviews at Schools

The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) released an official statement today encouraging school personnel to conduct "time outs" before each athletic event to review their emergency procedures and protocols.

The new statement is the latest in NATA's push to encourage schools to adopt venue-specific emergency action plans (EAPs). In the statement, NATA urges doctors, nurses, athletic trainers, emergency medical technicians, and other school-based athletic personnel to huddle up before each practice or competition to review the venue's EAP, which the organization says "will help produce a decisive, coordinated emergency response and outcome."

"This is a necessary step that can help save lives and reduce the risk of acute, chronic, or fatal outcomes on the playing field," said Ron Courson, the statement's author and director of sports medicine for the University of Georgia Athletic Association, in a statement. "Emergency situations can arise at any time during a practice or game. Athletic trainers, sports medicine doctors, and other health-care providers must provide the best possible care to reduce those risks."

As NATA points out, medical professionals pause before the start of every surgery to confirm the identity of the patient and to review the procedure about to take place.

In NATA's proposed time outs, each athletic health-care professional would determine his or her role in an emergency response, along with that person's primary and secondary means of communications in case of an emergency. Health-care personnel would also review what emergency equipment (such as an automatic defibrillator) is available, where the nearest hospital is located, and how an ambulance can get to an injured student-athlete as fast as possible, if necessary.

"Development and review of an emergency action plan guarantees that a coordinated approach is in place," said Dr. Lawrence J. Lemak, one of the developers of the Time Out program, in a statement. "Due to the relatively low incidence rate of catastrophic injuries, we may develop a false sense of security. This is a vital and necessary protocol that protects the athlete and requires the medical team to be prepared under any circumstance."

Major League Soccer will use this Time Out program in the coming season, NATA says.

Within the last year, both NATA and the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged schools to develop clearly defined EAPs before any athletic activity begins.

NATA's push to have school-based athletic health-care personnel frequently review those EAPs is the next logical step in best ensuring student-athlete safety.

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