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As every parent that has a child in sports knows there is always fear of injury.  When the sport is at the competitive level the feeling is more intense.  Last week my daughters’ team was  in a hockey tournament in Toronto.  Her team is a competitive U13AA team playing for the DWGHA.   We had two games on Friday.  We won the first game which was a huge confidence builder and the girls were getting ready and excited  for their second game later that day. 

Game 2,  First two periods are high intensity and both teams are playing well. It’s been a nail biter of a game so far.  We were in the lead going into the third period against Peterborough. The game continues as it has for the first two periods. Fast paced back and forth, suddenly Peterborough tied the game.  

The faceoff is at centre ice and my daughter Eryn, a defenceman, comes out on the ice. The faceoff is won and the puck goes to Eryn.  She quickly starts to carry the puck to start an offensive play.  As she approaches the boards she gets hit from behind and goes head first into the boards, bending her head and neck backwards much like whiplash (TO VIEW THE HIT CLICK HERE).   It’s a very hard hit.  Parents and players from both teams react and  gasp out loud.  Eryn is down on the ice.  The referee is standing beside her and  sees the hit and the impact,  NO WHISTLE. Play continues as  Eryn tries to get up and immediately falls to the ice.  Still No Whistle and play continues.   She awkwardly skates towards the bench, falling a couple more times before making it to the team’s bench. As you can imagine as a parent standing there watching all of this unfold and feeling upset and angry that the play has not stopped and a player (my daughter) struggles to get off the ice. 

Eryn sits on the bench in a haze and disoriented for about 5 minutes.  The team trainer takes Eryn from the bench towards the dressing room where I met them at the rink side.  Eryn is confused and not making any sense, she cannot stand without support and is in obvious distress.  Suddenly she loses consciousness.  We laid her on the ground and I called 9-1-1 to get paramedics to transport Eryn to the hospital. So here we are waiting for paramedics to arrive.   Being an Advanced Care Paramedic without any equipment I felt  helpless not able to do anything despite my paramedic training and experience.  It was a heart wrenching 10 minutes waiting for the paramedic ambulance to arrive. 

Paramedics arrive and do a quick assessment after getting a report from me.  A cervical collar is placed on her neck to protect her spine and she is carefully placed on the stretcher and transferred to the ambulance.  In the ambulance she is attached to the monitors and oxygen applied.  She is rushed with lights and sirens to the closest hospital for treatment. 

Upon arrival Eryn is rushed  into the trauma room and a team of doctors and nurses assess her from head to toe.  An IV is established and medication administered.  X-rays are taken, blood work drawn and off for a CT scan we go.  Thankfully there is no damage to her spine and the CT scan is negative with no bleeding.  All good news.

Sitting and waiting and pacing, Eryn wakes up an hour after arriving at the ER. She is very confused and hallucinating and complains of a severe headache and nausea.  The doctor informs me that she has a Grade 3 concussion.  We are monitored and eventually get to go home when she is more lucid.  

The tournament did not have any medical coverage on site.  No first aiders or paramedics to deal with emergencies

It’s been a week since the injury and Eryn is slowly on the road to recovery.  She has returned to school and has been given the green light to start light exercise on and off the ice.  The road to recovery is long but she will get there. 

As a concerned parent and  Advanced Care Paramedic I am left with questions that I cannot answer.  Why is there no onsite medical care for our amateur athletes? I understand amateur sports rely on volunteers to step up, but a 3 hours power point course that has 10 minutes of emergency training is unacceptable?  Why no emergency plan, equipment, and training for our at risk athletes? 

We have all seen in NHL, OHL, AHL a full complement of medical care on site.  They have a team trainer who is trained to the first responder level, a team doctor and paramedics on site for every game. Yes, these leagues have money behind them to afford that level of care. We rely on well intentioned coaches and trainers with little to no training and equipment to care for our athletes until community responders arrive, but aren’t our children in youth/ minor  sports worth the same amount of care?  Yes, there is a cost for this level of care at tournaments and games.  Our kids’ health, safety and wellness is worth every penny.  It is time that we change the mantra and plan for catastrophes by having paramedics on site in case of emergencies.  The cost can be absorbed by a slight increase in the registration fees for the tournaments. This is unacceptable and needs to change!  

What will it take for change to happen?  A death?  A life altering injury?  What will it take?

Rob Ichelson.  ACP

Full Disclosure – Although the author is the owner of canaPHEM, the intent of this article is to start the conversation and to be a “change-maker” by improving the Health and Safety of our amateur athletes. Weather you choose canaPHEM or another company, at a minimum INSIST that someone on the bench has first-aid and CPR Certification or better, have Professional On-Site Medical Coverage.

For more information on our On-Site Medical Services and First-Aid & CPR Training, please contact Lord Varma at [email protected] or call 905.493.7436 Ext. 1114