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Trainers Must Be Prepared For The Worst

By Abbott Kagan II, MD

Lee County athletic trainers and an Emergency Medical Services representative tackled an injured athlete's worst-case scenario Wednesday night at a seminar that served as a building block for cooperation and further education.

With area high school football practices set to begin Monday, Bishop Verot and LaBelle trainer Jim Marshall wanted Lee County medical personnel to view, discuss and demonstrate what procedures to follow for a player who has suffered an apparent head or neck injury.

While head and neck injuries rarely occur several trainers and physicians could not recall any Lee County football fatalities this decade Marshall wants to be prepared for the worst.

"This brought us all closer together so that we'll all be on the same page," Marshall said. "When an athlete goes down, things have to be done in an appropriate manner and be done quickly.

"Sometimes Lee County teams play Collier County teams. The only deviation there should be is which hospital they're going to go to."

A protocol has to be followed, Marshall said, and in the past there have been different opinions on when and where to remove a player's shoulder pads and helmet.

Head and neck injuries most often are caused when a player spears an opponent in the chest with his head, according to a video that featured Dr. Joseph Torg and former NFL coach Dick Vermeil. "These are not freak accidents," Vermeil pleaded. "They can be avoided."

Marshall and Mike Pcolar, an EMS paramedic training specialist, agree with Collier County personnel that trainers should not remove an injured player's equipment unless:

· There is an obstruction of the airway. · The heart stops. ·The player has lost consciousness.

This year, as well as the last, Lee County high schools and Hendry County's LaBelle have been assigned a trainer who presides over all practices and games. A physician usually an orthopedic surgeon � will be present at games, as will an ambulance with an EMS crew.

The latter likely isn't needed.

National trends of fatal head and neck injuries have declined sharply in the past 30 years because of better coaching, improvements in protective gear and a 1976 rule that prohibits the use of a player's head for tackling, said Fred Mueller of the American Football Coaches Association.

According to the AFCA's Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, there were 26 contact-caused football deaths in 1968. Last year, there were four, And non-fatal injuries to the head and neck ranked fifth out of eight body areas studied last year by the National Association of Athletic Trainers.

With all of the improvement preventative measures, some parents still worry. And others do not.

"I don't worry about him," said Maria Rodriguez, whose son Tito will start at linebacker for Lehigh. "I worry more about the players on the other team." Said Tito: "I try not to think about it, the more you think about it, the more likely you're going to get hurt." Unlike Rodriguez, Barbara Leonand sometimes worries about her son Forrest, who will play quarterback and defense for Riverdale this fall. "I tried to talk him out of playing, but I decided to let him make his own decision," Leonard said.

Although they were invited, no area coaches attended Wednesday's seminar. Throughout last season, they rushed to fallen players during apparent major injuries that fortunately were minor ones. But they did so to console, not control.

"The doctors don't come on the sideline and call plays during a game," LaBelle coach Ron Dunbar said. "So I'm not going to tell them what to do.

"We have some of the best trainers in Southwest Florida."