Athletic Trainers’ Group Strengthens Spinal-Injury Standards

For the first time since 1998, the National Athletic Trainers' Association has updated the standards for treating and transporting a player who has received a spinal injury. The biggest change? A recommendation to take off athletic equipment before a player goes to the hospital.

If a player got a suspected spinal injury on the field, the protocol used to be to keep his or her equipment on until he or she got to the hospital.

Well, not anymore. This week, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) announced that it was updating its standards on treating spine-injured athletes, which had largely remained the same since 1998. With higher-quality safety equipment now in use, the association is calling for such equipment to be removed from players as soon as possible.

That change, along with others, comes at a time when attention to the injuries that players receive on the field—particularly the long-term effects of such injuries—is at an all-time high. But as NATA Vice President MaryBeth Horodyski notes, many hospitals are not well-suited to treat them, which means that a helmet or shoulder pads can be a major barrier to dealing with a patient suffering from a high-risk spinal injury.

“The athlete with a suspected spinal cord injury presents medical providers with challenges that are not common with the general population,” Horodyski, chairwoman of the task force that created the new recommendations, said in a news release. “Equipment worn for protective purposes presents a treatment barrier for basic or advanced life support to the airway and chest. Removal of equipment prior to transport is one of our most important updated recommendations.”

The new recommendations also suggest putting a player suffering a suspected spinal injury into a rigid immobilization device before being transported to a nearby hospital.

Ultimately, the goal of the new standards is to limit motion as much as possible during a critical time.

“In proper hands, people that have trained and practiced a lot, the amount of motion that occurs is still sometimes significant but it’s going to be less than in the hands of someone who has no idea how to get the equipment off,” Horodyski added in comments reported by KMOX.

The recommendations, which are in use around the country, are voluntary.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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