Are first aid teams at amateur sports fields primed and ready to go?

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Rugby Club iStock 000003152247XSmallIt's evident from the recent pitch-side incident involving the footballer Fabrice Muamba, that the sooner treatment is administered during a medical or trauma emergency the better. In addition, if treated by an expertly trained medical team, the chances of a good recovery are high.

We see this in practice at professional rugby and football grounds; a team of medics deal with a potentially seriously injury pitch-side professionally, with no time constraints to get the game underway. The same cannot be said about the amateur game.


Over the last 30 years I have attended numerous 999 calls to all types sporting events. All too often I have seen unacceptable approaches by clubs who have not adopted a standard recognised first aid training programme. Along with an inadequate number of appropriately trained staff to deal with medical emergencies, both on and off the pitch, my main concerns are:


1. Non-recognised or approved level of first aid training used.
2. Training carried out by members of the club who are first aiders at their place of work, not the club.
3. People teaching first aid with no teaching qualifications, only a first aid certificate.
4. First aiders teaching first aid with no 'hands-on' experience or medical background.
5. Too many first aid subjects taught rather than keeping in mind what is only required for the club.
6. First aiders teaching first aid with a lack of basic, under-lying subject knowledge.
7. Miss interpretation and application of recognised first aid treatments.
8. Lack of appropriate first aid equipment and training in its use.
9. First aiders using, or attempting to use, skills and treatments which they are not trained to use.


Three things amateur clubs and associations can do to immediately improve the quality of first aid training on offer at their grounds:

1. Undertake an internal review of current first aid policies and procedures, and review them internally on a regular basis (at least quarterly).
2. Undertake some recognised standard syllabus training delivered by experienced practitioners with practical 'hands-on' medical experience and relevant teaching qualifications.
3. Undertake an external, professional review (including any necessary re-qualification in existing courses) to reduce skill fade in both knowledge and practical skills. Ideally, this is to take place before the start of the playing season.


What to look out for in a course syllabus:


  • Team Approach
  • Team Leadership and Delegation
  • Dialling 999 MPDS (Medical Priority Dispatch System)
  • Appropriate First Aid Equipment
  • Assessing Patients Conscious Level (AVPU)
  • Primary and Secondary Survey
  • Head Injuries
  • Airway Management
  • Unconsciousness
  • Head Injuries
  • Sprains and Strains
  • Fractures
  • Immobilisation (Head Injuries, Spinal Injuries and Fractures)
  • Resuscitation and Defibrillation


If training is undertaken professionally, a club would then have a recognised standard of treatment delivered by an appropriately trained first aid team. The team would be able to apply the correct treatments and procedures using the best equipment. First aid team skills would be maintained with the latest approved standards and a reduction in players' time-off work due to injury or poor management could be achieved. Least of all, the club would have peace of mind with regard to medical insurance cover. Something worth investing in.


And finally...


The HSE has identified skills fade in first aiders, mostly due to lack of experience and development (CPD) over the three year certification period. HSE recommend that all first aiders should undergo refresher training every year to address this skills and knowledge fade.


You might also be interested in our blog: How much should I pay for a defibrillator.


If you would like to know more about first aid training for amateur clubs, please get in touch.

Last modified on Friday, 11 October 2019
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Clive Haddrell Cert Ed LIQA MSET

NHS Paramedic Tutor, NHS Ambulance Emergency Driving Tutor, FAETC 1&2, Cert/Ed, D32, D33, LIQA. Manual Handling Tutor (RoSPA) and Member of the Society for Education and Training. I have over thirty years experience with the former Avon Ambulance Service NHS Trust, and recently with Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust. My experience includes the role of paramedic tutor, rapid response motorcycle paramedic. For the last 25years paramedic advisor to the well-known BBC television program "Casualty".

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