College soccer legend BILLY GAZONAS tells DAVE CLARKE how he went from unwanted player to NCAA title-winning captain and gives top tips to youngsters MORE
A stark reminder to all
Christian Eriksen’s collapse during the Denmark v Finland game earlier this month shook the football world to its core.
Eriksen was, thankfully, okay. Team captain Simon Kjær put Eriksen on his side and made sure his airway was open before brothers Moreten and Anders Boesen, the team doctor and stadium doctor respectively, resuscitated the midfielder, saving his life following what was later confirmed to be a cardiac arrest.
But it surely made us all question: If one of our players collapsed, what would we have done? What should we have done?
The likelihood of being confronted by a life- threatening situation is something we must all think about, irrespective of the level at which we work.
Let’s look at the first-aid requirements in some of the major nations…
In the United States, the legal definition of a coach includes nine actions when it comes to health care, one of which is ‘provide appropriate emergency assistance’. This encompasses learning first-aid and CPR and being responsible for providing emergency care if no medical professionals are present. Some states expect coaches to meet additional standards of care.
Sports Medicine Australia requires that an appropriately qualified first-aider is on hand at all sporting and recreation events, including training and practice sessions.
In England, each FA-qualified coach must have completed, at the very least, the Introduction to First Aid in Football (IFAiF) course.
After completing the two-hour session, the qualification is valid for three years before you have to renew it, or progress to the next qualification: the FA Level 2 Emergency First Aid in Football (EFAiF).
All of these courses are incredibly useful but, of course, the chance of retaining any or all of the knowledge they provide for an extended amount of time is slim to none. Particularly because first aid is not something you get to practice all that often.
In two years as a coach, I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to get my first-aid kit out. The last time was just a few weeks ago when I had to bandage a player’s knee following a nasty fall.
After taking the bandage out of the packaging, I unwrapped it the wrong way. I was annoyed at myself, but I am not sure what else I expected having not done it for over a year, nor done anything to keep my knowledge up.
I made a commitment to myself to review all the relevant literature and booklets I have on a regular basis, so that if the need arises for me to help, I’m confident and ready.
After all, what happened to Eriksen should act as a reminder to all of us that things can go really badly wrong at any time. We owe it to those we coach to keep our first-aid knowledge at a level where we can use it effectively.
FIVE WAYS TO BE PREPARED
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR ROLE
Know exactly what is required of you from both your governing body and your club or organisation. Check the governing body’s minimum requirements, and speak to the person in charge of health and safety about the practical elements at your club. What, for example, is their incident reporting process?
2. GO BEYOND THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
Once you understand the minimum requirements set by your governing body, club or organisation, commit to doing more. This could include taking refresher courses, reading, reviewing video, or practising with other coaches.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR PLAYERS’ MEDICAL NEEDS
Ensure you have up to date, comprehensive records for all your players and make them easily accessible whenever you are coaching. If players have conditions such as asthma or allergies, speak to them at the start of each session about where their asthma pumps or epipens are. Also, research those conditions yourself and ask: ‘if I need to use that epipen, would I know how?’
4. ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO IMPROVE THEIR SKILLS
The more people that have medical knowledge, the better. Speak to parents, carers, volunteers or site staff about their level of knowledge and if they’d be interested in taking a course or gaining a qualification to learn more.
5. CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT REGULARLY
Ensure you have everything you need in your first-aid bag, and that it goes with you wherever you go. Regularly review use-by dates, replace whatever you use and adapt to suit your players – I carry sanitary towels in mine as I’ve known players to start their periods during a game. If your club has a defibrillator, make sure you know where it is. If it doesn’t, consider investing in one: there are various ways to apply.