Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 23, 2013

Medical timeout proposed for sporting events

ATHENS — Imagine your son or daughter is injured on a playing field.

The first thing he or she hears when sidelines personnel arrive is, “Who can we get to help us out here?”

“Where is the nearest hospital? Do they have an orthopedist?”

“Does anybody here have a splint?”

“Who has the keys to get the ambulance through the gate?”

This chaos can be minimized, if not eliminated altogether, through a proposal gaining traction among athletic trainers in West Virginia — the “medical timeout.”

That was the subject of a Saturday morning session at the annual Sports Medicine Conference held at Concord University in Athens, conducted by the West Virginia Athletic Trainers' Association.

Under the medical timeout proposal, half an hour before the start of an athletic contest, a meeting would be convened with athletic trainers from both teams, emergency medical service (EMS) personnel, team physicians if available, and others to go over how to handle a significant injury or illness if it occurs.

“The objective is to determine the resources you have available to you,” said Scott Hale, a paramedic and trauma program manager at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.

The key is an organized, not unrehearsed, response.

Paul Seamann, a registered nurse and emergency medical technician (EMT) with more than 30 years of experience in West Virginia, talked about the concept.

“I want to make sure that all of these athletes ... are receiving the right kind of care when we go out an interact with all the kinds of ATs (athletic trainers) that are out there,” said Seamann, who is director of operations for the Beckley-based Jan-Care Ambulance Service.

Using the example of people putting an injured football player on a backboard at midfield during a homecoming game, he said, “You want to make sure you’ve got it right.”

One way to prepare is to have an emergency response plan already written up and thoroughly understood by people who may need to operate it.

Another is to have a set of hand signals that are understood by all personnel when an athletic trainer motions to the sidelines. This would result in the proper equipment, such as a heart defibrillator or backboard, being brought immediately onto the field.

In responding to an emergency, athletic trainers from both teams would be called upon. Seamann said, “At this time, it’s not our team against their team. It’s wanting to make sure the kid can walk next week.”

To lift an athlete onto a backboard properly takes eight people, Seamann said, so an assistant coach or coaches from each team will likely be included in the “medical timeout” to provide lifting assistance if necessary.

Others meeting prior to the contest would include a representative from the law enforcement present, and a school official who will know where keys are to any locked doors or gates that may have to be accessed.

Literature prepared to promote the medical timeout contains some precise details, including a “grading scale” for assessing concussions and a spine injury assessment.

Practical decisions would include, in the case of a football neck or spinal injury, who would be responsible for proper removal of pads and the helmet before treatment.

“There is nothing in physicians' or nurses’ training about removing shoulder pads and helmets,” Seamann noted.

Dr. Jim Kyle, team physician for Concord University, said, “The medical timeout is coming to West Virginia. ... In southern West Virginia, we’re going to test that out next year.”

The conference, which included approximately 95 attendees, concluded on Saturday.

— Contact Tom Bone at

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