First Aid For Sports Coaches
Injuries go hand in hand with playing any sport. However, that shouldn’t mean that we should accept them. As a sports coach, you have a responsibility to keep all your athletes safe. This includes preventing injuries from occurring and managing any injuries that do occur.
The ideal scenario would see all sports coaches undergoing first aid training. However, this isn’t always possible due to costs and time constraints. Due to this, some sporting clubs hire trained medical staff to attend events to help prevent and treat injuries. However, again, not everyone is fortunate to have these resources available to them.
So, when there is no one else, the responsibility falls upon the coach. In that case, you need to know what you are doing. Whilst we recommend attending a certified first aid course, for those who cannot, below we have provided some advice on treating injuries on the field or court.
The best way to keep our athletes safe is through thorough preparation. Before undertaking any physical exercise, coaches should ensure their athletes are adequately prepared to participate. This preparation comes in the forms of long-term and immediate preparation.
Long-term preparation is what happens long before training or games. This includes things such as:
- Having coaches and staff trained in first aid
- Inspecting equipment and facilities to ensure they are safe to use
- Preparing athletes physically to withstand the rigours of the sport
- Developing adequate skills before allowing your athletes to compete against opposition
- Ensuring your athletes have sufficient food and water intake
- Teaching your athletes the rules of the game
Immediate preparation is what occurs on the day of the training or the game. This includes tasks such as:
- Inspecting the field or court for hazards before commencing training or games
- Ensuring equipment such as post covers, nets, etc are secured properly
- Completing adequate warmups
- Confirming all athletes are wearing the appropriate equipment/attire
Other important preparation methods include having detailed reposts on each of your athletes. These reports should contain information such as:
- Contact information for parents/legal guardians
- Previous or current injuries
- Existing medical conditions, allergies and, any other relevant medical information
- Medical consent forms for allowing the coach to administer first aid and call an ambulance if necessary.
- Past medical history, e.g. asthma, seizures, prior heat-related injuries
These reports should always be available and easily accessible for coaches during training and games.
During an event
One of the more difficult jobs of a coach is determining whether an athlete can return to training or a game following an injury. Professional training, such as certified first aid courses, can assist a coach with these decisions. With this training, you can make informed decisions regarding injuries and what step to take next.
In the absence of such training, below are some guidelines you can follow to ensure your athletes are cared for and kept safe. The best advice, however, when in any doubt, sit the player out and seek advice from a professional health care worker.
Recent research is making us much more aware of the seriousness of concussions and head injuries in community sports. They damage even mild concussions do cause is devasting and can have ramifications for many years following an injury. However, a concussion is not an easy injury to diagnose. So, for the safety of the athletes, coaches must always err on the side of caution. If you suspect an athlete has suffered a concussion they should be evaluated by a healthcare professional before returning to any physical activity. Click here to learn more on how to identify and treat concussion
In the event of any head knock, follow these steps:
- Immediately call for an ambulance
- Look for bleeding around the eyes, nose, or ears
- Observe for the length of time that unconsciousness lasts
- Check for breathing and blocked airways
- If breathing carefully place the athlete into the recovery position
- Monitor breathing and wait for the ambulance to arrive
- Check for alertness and orientation – assess whether the child knows where they are or what day it is
- Assess for numbness, tingling or weakness of any extremity
- Check for dizziness or general weakness. If the child is unable to stand, allow him/her to assume a position of comfort and call for an ambulance
- Check the child for slurred speech, ringing in the ears, a full feeling in his head, or memory loss
If any of the above result in a positive finding the child must be evaluated and treated by a medical professional. As always, if in doubt, assume the worst.
Second-Impact Syndrome can occur if a concussion is left untreated. This occurs when an athlete sustains a second head injury before the symptoms of the first injury have subsided. This is a life-threatening situation that causes brain swelling or herniation and death.
Bleeding from cuts and scrapes are very common injuries in any sport. Remember, blood is potentially infectious which means that athletes must be removed from the training or games until the bleeding has been stopped and the wound has been cleaned and covered.
Most bleeding is not considered an emergency and can be controlled by the coach. When attending to bleeds or cuts, ensure you are using disposable plastic gloves and clean and sanitised dressings and wipes.
If you are concerned about the size of the cut or the amount of bleeding, call an ambulance immediately.
Even though most of the time factures are not life-threatening injuries, they are serious injuries. All fractures must be taken seriously and referred to a healthcare professional. Factures are not always obvious, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution and seek medical advice from a professional.
Important! Upper leg fractures can be life-threatening and require immediate attention. Such injuries can injury the femoral artery which can result in death.
Sprains and strains
Sprains and strains are not generally considered medical emergencies, however, they must still be assed and treated before returning to play.
In the case of a sprain or strain remove the athlete from training or play. In doing so try to limit weight bearing on the injured area by assisting them off of the field or court.
Once removed from play, treat the area with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
In some cases, fractures can occur during a sprain or strain. If there is any doubt treat the injury as a suspected fracture and refer the athlete to a healthcare professional.
It is possible to return to play following a sprain or strain. However, the mustn’t be any risk of further injury. For ankle sprains, for example, if the athlete can run figure eights without pain or limp and can hop on the injured foot it is a safe sign they can return to play. However, if in doubt, sit them out.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Heat exhaustion occurs when an athlete becomes dehydrated and cannot regulate their internal body temperature. Symptoms include profuse sweating; cramping of the extremities and the abdomen; nausea or vomiting; a headache; dizziness; and cool, clammy skin. If left untreated heat exhaustion will quickly progress to heatstroke, which is life-threatening.
Heatstroke occurs when an athlete’s core body temperature reaches 40 degrees. This can quickly lead to irreversible brain damage and even death, so you must call an ambulance immediately and begin cooling the athlete down by removing clothing, applying cool water to the skin, and placing ice packs to their armpits and groin.
Remaining hydrated can prevent both heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Athletes can do this by drinking plenty of water before exercise and taking regular drinks during exercise. Click here to learn how much water your athletes should be drinking before and during exercise.
Please be advised, Coaches Guild is not a licensed medical professional and the information provided in this article is for information purposes only. Whilst Coaches Guild has taken the utmost care to provide you with up to date first aid advice, this information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of medical professionals.
- If you can enrol in a certified first aid course as soon as possible. It’s a great life skill to have.
- Ask your athletes to provide you with their medical history, including previous or current injuries and medical conditions; emergency contact information; and a medical consent form.
- Compile all the records into one place that you can access at all times in case of an emergency. For example, on your smartphone.
- Keep yourself up to date with the latest first aid procedures so that you are always ready to assist your athletes in their time of need.
What was your key takeaway from this article?
Do you have any questions on any of the information provided in this article?
Let us know in the comments below.