In the UK you are probably aware that to keep a valid coaching qualification, a coach needs to renew their both their Safeguarding Children and Emergency Aid certificates every three years. As I obtained my first FA coaching qualification some fifteen years ago, I have undertaken several renewals of these qualifications, most recently Emergency Aid. As our course tutor commented, the reason for the regular renewals is the changes made in the content – for example, I recall from the first Emergency Aid course, the number of recommended “rescue breaths” and “chest compressions” to be administered on the casualty (or in our case, on “Resusci Annie”) has changed – in fact, on the latest course, the rescue breaths appears to have become less of a necessity, particularly if there is a fear of infection.
I digress – the main change in the latest Emergency Aid course appears to be the introduction of the Emergency Action Plan. This is a document which outlines everything needed in the case of serious injury to a player while at a particular location, and it strongly recommended by the FA that each club produces one of these documents, and also that coaches have their own in addition. The plan should then be sent to opposition teams at the time of fixture confirmation.
The document includes such information as the full club address, details of qualified first aiders, location of first aid equipment including a defibrillator, access routes for an ambulance, and directions to the nearest hospital for Accident & Emergency and Walk In Centre. From personal experience, it is much better to go to the latter for things like small breaks – you get seen much quicker. Our tutor explained that this document was introduced after two clubs successfully brought legal action against another club when there was an unnecessary delay in getting treatment to seriously injured players. You can download an Emergency Action Plan for your own club by filling in the form below.
I’ve always been baffled that despite emergency aid being a requirement of football coaches, it has never been the same for the refereeing qualification. Our tutor, who worked directly for the English FA, confirmed that such a common sense change was on the horizon. He also had a number of practical pieces of advice including some additions to the Emergency Action Plan. For example, one of the pieces of equipment mentioned in the document is a stretcher. If a player is seriously injured, the use of a stretcher by someone who isn’t experienced at moving casualties in such a manner could cause more problems – even “professionals” get it wrong sometimes (see video below). He suggested other practicalities such as an umbrella and blankets to help protect an injured player from the elements and prevent the player going into shock.
In addition to practising getting casualties into the recovery position and resuscitating Annie, we also discussed head injuries and concussion. There have been many examples in the professional game where a player appears have been knocked unconscious or sustained a serious head injury and have carried on taking part in a game. This definitely goes against both medical and the FA’s recommendations and we were given examples of where ignoring apparent minor head injuries has lead to more serious, even fatal issues. We were supplied with a concussion checklist and a report form for head injuries for use at a club. Again, these forms can be downloaded by filling in the form on this page.
Also included in the course were a look at heart conditions, what to look out for and how to deal with any situations. There has obviously been a very high profile example in the Premier League in recent years, that of Fabrice Muamba. Although it wasn’t part of the course, our tutor did explain how a Defibrillator (AED) works – the good news is that a unit can be used by someone without training, however it makes sense for a trained professional to use when required. We then looked at both asthma and choking, again both recognising potential symptoms and then dealing with them effectively.
Whether the course has enabled myself or my colleagues to spring into first aid action at the first opportunity is debatable, however what the course does really emphasise is the importance of being prepared, the knowledge of what to do in various situations and more importantly, where to go for qualified help when needed. Injuries are part and parcel of the game, however clubs are increasingly required to have plans in place for all potential situations and the course was as much a reminder of these requirements and ensuring lives are not put at risk while taking part in the game.
P.S If, like me, this course prompted you to check your first aid supplies and you found them needing renewal, here’s a Deluxe First Aid kit that can be dispatched to you today!