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Sep 21

Ready? Uh, Okay…… Does Your Squad Have an Emergency Plan?

Photo by steeleman204 http://www.flickr.com/photos/rentman1225/

It should be pretty standard for anyone coaching or in a
position of authority for a contact sport like cheerleading, to have things
like band-aids and ice packs on hand, but what do you do when something seriously
actually happens?

Freak out? Yeah, maybe a little. Then you get your head
together, and go through your rehearsed emergency plan.

Really, no matter how much of a rock star you think you are,
and what kind of situations you think you can wing your way through unscathed,
planning ahead is the way to go- and not just in your head. Write it down,
share it with the rest of the class. It’s a good idea. Listen to the
Cheertator.

Keep in mind, the steps that I suggest in the rest of this post are just
that, a suggestion. Part of your preparation should be checking with your
school or gym about their safety procedures and requirements (which will take
their liability insurance into account), and making sure your plan is in
compliance with theirs.

To get your emergency plan set up for action, here are a
couple of things you will need-

  • A fully stocked first aid kit (with ice packs, although real ice is
    infinitely better if you can manage it)
  • Emergency Contact Forms and Medical Releases for all participants, kept with the
    coach or other responsible party at all practices and events. Look through
    these before your season starts, so you know about things like allergies
    or previous medical conditions. Knowing whether someone who needs an
    epi-pen, has one, or whether someone has issues with their blood sugar
    levels are important details.
  • Locations of the nearest hospitals with emergency rooms and urgent care centers
    (this is a just in case, but having directions is helpful for when the GPS
    inevitably freezes)
  • A charged and functional cell phone (as a coach, make it a point to charge
    your cell phone before practices and events)
  • Someone who is First Aid and CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certified.
  • A backup for each responsibility necessary to enact an emergency plan
  • A basic understanding of Good Samaritan Laws.

Next, plan out what to do in the event of some of the situations
most common in cheerleading, like:

  • Soft tissue injuries – like a sprained ankle, depending on severity, can
    probably be handled initially by a First Aid Certified coaching staff
    member. Even in events like this, where urgent or emergent professional
    care may not be needed, you should still notify necessary parties, like
    parents.
  • Suspected fractures – accidents resulting in injuries where it is unclear whether
    the damage is soft tissue or skeletal are more often than not
    non-emergent. If an injury is non-emergent, but could be more serious than
    a simple over-stretching, you shouldn’t need to call an ambulance, but the
    situation should be handled with a sense of urgency. Follow the basics of
    your emergency plan, if the athlete is a minor, call the parent, and
    follow the instructions on the emergency contact form, and medical release
    form in regards to where to take the injured athlete for treatment and x-rays,
    and who is allowed to transport the athlete.
  • Severe limb injuries – Chances are, if a limb injury is severe enough that you
    can clearly see what’s wrong, and would call it “severe”, you probably
    want to call an ambulance and have medical professionals attend to the
    injury as soon as possible.
  • Suspected head injuries – Concussions are a real concern with any sort of head
    injury. If an accident resulted in the suspicion that there might be a
    head injury, the safest thing to do is to have the injured athlete checked
    out by a medical professional.
  • Head/neck/spine injuries – This is almost always an ambulance situation. If a head, neck,
    or spinal injury is suspected or evident, the injured athlete should only
    be moved by qualified emergency personnel, like EMT’s, except in the
    instance that movement is necessary for free breathing.

Establish basic plans for what to do dependent upon what
kind of injury it is, how severe the situation, and whether emergency personnel
are needed, and write them down.

For example – Limb or joint injury, swelling evident, no
bruising apparent – Soft Tissue injury, possible fracture. First Aid certified
party may stabilize injured limb or joint with bandage. Check Medical Release
form and Emergency Contact form for instruction, contact primary emergency
contact for minor, and arrange for transport to preferred medical facility for
evaluation. Assistant coach, or appointed faculty member supervises squad in
interim.

The AACCA has some great information, and The National Cheer
Safety Foundation has an example of an emergency plan that you can use to plan
out the details of your own, then you can share it with the rest of your
coaching staff. Clear it with the school’s or gym’s administrative staff, and
then take a little bit of time before a scheduled practice, or after an
administrative meeting to practice it.

With good training, effective spotting techniques and safety
measures like mats and clear communication, you can minimize the risk for
accidents and catastrophic injury, but you can never eliminate it completely. The
sport of cheerleading today has the potential to be dangerous. Go into every
single event and practice with respect for that fact, ingrain that respect into
your squad, and prepare yourself to lead the team through anything from a
bruised shin to a serious fall.

Check out the Safety page, under Resources, for more ideas
and information.

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