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New on-field actions focus on football player safety

It’s a scene that always gives fans and parents a knot in the stomach.

A football player lies on the ground motionless after a spinal injury.

Traditionally, athletic trainers left a player’s pads and helmet on until they got to the hospital.

Carle Sports Medicine athletic trainers and emergency workers will do the opposite starting this school year.

“The National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) now tells trainers to take off the athlete’s padding before placing them on a spine board or stretcher,” said Brendan McHale, supervisor at Carle Sports Medicine.

McHale wants parents and fans to know about this change so they aren’t alarmed if they see athletic trainers removing a player’s shoulder pads and helmet on the field.

“The reason for the change is to make sure emergency workers on the field can get to the athlete’s chest and airway, if needed. That’s hard to do when the athlete is wearing shoulder pads and a helmet,” McHale said.

Because this is a big change in treating injured athletes, trainers need extra practice.

That’s why Carle Sports Medicine hosted a special clinic for Champaign County coaches, school administrators and athletic trainers. Athletic trainers and EMTs learned the new technique and practiced removing equipment.

For Carle Arrow Ambulance EMTs and paramedics, learning new information from experts and hands-on practicing is routine.

“It’s very important that our EMTs who work football games know the latest techniques to help injured players–especially those with spine injuries,” said Larry Sapp, director of Carle Arrow Ambulance.

“Thanks to the special clinic and our continuing education, our EMTs are well-prepared to handle a serious injury on the football field.”

Athletic trainers and EMTs hope to never put their knowledge to use. But, if an athlete has a spine injury, he’s better off with an expert.

“We provide education so our athletic trainers and first responders are highly trained and are following recommended procedures,” McHale said.