No one likes to think about a medical emergency or someone getting hurt at their competition, but the unfortunate reality is that it does happen. And when it does, it’s best to be prepared and educated on handling such situations.
Here are our tips for ensuring the safety of your athletes and spectators alike during your competition.
Table of Contents
Have medical personnel on site
Your onsite medical and healthcare personnel should be specialized in dealing with athletic-related injuries and emergent situations. They should be aware of your emergency action plan and concussion protocol (see below), and be able to act quickly in response to any emergency that occurs at your event.
Make sure the following roles are filled on your medical team:
- A head coach or judge as the first responder.
- A physician to oversee and provide assistance to the athletic trainer.
- EMTs to support the team in life-threatening situations.
Before the function, contact medical staff to introduce yourself and your workouts. You should also include other information like your emergency action plan, concussion protocol, waivers, and injury reporting documents.
Instill an Emergency Action Plan
An emergency action plan is a set of guidelines for handling unforeseen situations.
It lists the personnel involved and their responsibilities in case of injury or emergency, as well as specific emergency escape routes and locations of equipment. All medical and event personnel should be familiar with and rehearse the emergency action plan. These rehearsals should occur regularly for recurring events or prior to one-off events.
(Insider info: we’ve seen some of the biggest CrossFit competitions rehearsing their emergency action plan in the day leading up to the event. It’s a must for every competition, big or small.)
The bare minimum items required for an emergency action plan are as follows:
- Who is responsible for initiating the crisis response program? (This is typically the responsibility of the head coach or judge.)
- How will the emergency be communicated to other medical staff and personnel?
- When to call EMS and who is responsible for doing so. It is essential to have the necessary details for EMS (the address and contact info of the event, special instructions for accessing certain areas of the event).
- Who will be responsible for procuring the AED? Where are the AEDs placed? Include a map in the emergency action plan that displays the AED locations.
- This encompasses how to exit the event should a major emergency occur. Diagrams that illustrate the escape routes are helpful.
- After an injury or emergency occurs, it is imperative to document the event for legal reasons. Make sure you have already established protocols for recording the incident.
Have an AED readily available
An AED is a device that can help save the life of a person who has a sudden cardiac arrest.
The scenario of sudden cardiac arrest is unlikely, but it is a risk connected to the demands of fitness competitions. Having an AED onsite at your event, therefore, is crucial. AEDs are most effective when they are delivered within two minutes of sudden cardiac arrest. As a result, they should be positioned in easily accessible locations.
There are many event venues where AEDs are already provided. Medical personnel may provide AEDs as part of their medical coverage, but this is not always the case. Make sure to check with your venue and/or medical personnel prior to the event to see if AEDs are provided.
Walkthroughs of the AED retrieval and utilization procedure should be performed as part of your emergency action plan rehearsal to prepare for a real emergency situation.
Establish a concussion protocol
A concussion protocol is a documented strategy for dealing with concussions. Although the likelihood of this happening is quite slim, it should be included in your emergency action plan.
Have a concussion evaluation and treatment provided by medical personnel at your event.
A concussion should include at least the following items:
- Baseline testing (if available or applicable)
- Criteria for removal from activity
- Procedures for sideline assessments
- Procedures for referral to other healthcare providers
- Procedures for returning to activity
It is important to note that the concussion protocol may vary based on national or state laws.
Setup hydration stations
Fresh, clean drinking water, both at room temp and cold, should be readily available throughout the competition floor/field.
Consider offering electrolyte packs as well, such as LMNT.
Waivers are a must-have piece of approval for functional fitness competitions. Make sure you include a waiver page for your athletes to review and agree to during their registration.
You can create your waiver page and ask your athletes to check a box if they agree to reading and accepting the terms. You could also send a waiver out manually to your registrants, but you’ll need to track each and every response – and potentially chase down those who haven’t signed the waiver.
Or, you could use a pre-built waiver form and automatically include this as part of the checkout process using Strongest Compete. If the athlete doesn’t check the box, registration can not be completed, ensuring every registrant has accepted the waiver.
Other medical tips for competition organizers
- Medical services should be provided for the entire event, including the installation and breakdown of the event if this is a large-scale or dangerous operation.
- Medical services may also be needed for attendees queuing to get in and out of the event.
- Locate first aid/medical teams carefully to minimize emergency response times.
- Provide information about the location of medical facilities to all your attendees and event staff. Use signs and print the information on programmes or tickets.
- Ambulances and other emergency vehicles need clear access in and out of the venue.