By Nick Ames
With the recent discussion around the AFL on new concussion guidelines, contact to the head and players ducking their heads in contests looking for free kicks, it is an appropriate time for trainers to review their procedures for dealing with a player who has received a blow to the head.
The most important principle in managing a player who has received a forceful contact to the head is that until it can be cleared the trainer should always assume that the player’s neck may have been injured.
If the player is conscious it is easy to first ask if the player has any neck pain or altered sensation in their arms.
The difficulty arises when the player is unconscious. Until the player regains consciousness it must be assumed that the cervical spine is damaged and before the player is moved (i.e. rolled or put on to a stretcher) a cervical collar or neck brace should be fitted to adequately support the player’s neck. The neck brace needs to remain in place until the player has been medically assessed and cleared of any spinal damage.
These neck braces should always be attached to your stretchers so they are always easily accessible.
Before a game commences it is important that the stretcher and neck brace are located and that the trainers and, if available, medical staff are all aware who is responsible for fitting the brace.
To this end practicing stretcher drills and neck brace fitting pre season (and during the season) is imperative. All the staff must be familiar with their individual roles if the situation arises during a game where you have to deal with an unconscious player.
Fortunately in our great game of Australian football significant spinal injuries are very rare, however you can never be too careful.
Good luck and keep up the good work!