The One Thing Every Massage Therapist Should Have In Their First Responder Bag
Blood is leaking from his left leg.
The players get him to the bench and throw one arm over the AT’s shoulder, I grab the other one and we hobble him down to the treatment room.
Once he’s on the treatment table we start cutting gear off.
He’s been cut by a skate over the Extensor Retinaculum on his left ankle with the tendons exposed. The AT immediately grabs gauze and puts pressure over the cut to control the bleed. He’s gonna need to go to the hospital.
Let’s back up a few hours.
Pregame Warmup, Massage And Treatment
That day started like a typical Saturday afternoon.
Stop at Tim Horton’s to grab coffee’s around 4:45, at the rink by 5pm.
Step into the dressing room, talk with a few of the players, then into the treatment room.
Have a quick chat with the Athletic Therapist about some injuries etc. going on with players and have our coffee’s.
One by one players came in for treatment.
I do some pre-event massage and help players with their warm up. The A.T. gets to work taping and working on some nagging injuries.
One of the management team comes down to inform us there will be a first aid company in the stands tonight, since none of the Dr’s could make it to the game (it was league rules to have a doctor or a certain number of First Responders in the building for every game).
The first aid company is there to help with any fans at the game and back us up if we need any help.
Pregame skate starts at 6:35, we go and watch one of the players to see how he’s skating with a chronic groin injury.
7:15 puck drop.
Halfway through the 1st period there’s a crash into the boards that resulted in the injury from the beginning. But dealing with the injury wasn’t the difficult part.
The Inexperienced First Aid Attendant
In walks a young man who works for the first aid company, he looks about 18 years old, accompanied by an older gentlemen that just kind of sits back and watches.
The young man immediately attempts to take control of the situation pushing his way around. Me and the AT look at each other somewhat dumbfounded by what’s going on.
He tries to take a pulse (dorsalis pedis) on the injured side. He can’t get it and exclaims “we need to cut the other skate off so that he can compare”.
Of course he can’t get a pulse, the AT is holding pressure on the injury right above to stop the bleeding. He cuts the other skate off while we tend to the injured leg.
Once he gets the skate off he continues to follow protocol, takes the pulse and has the player wiggle the toes on his good leg. He continues to follow protocol and asks the player to wiggle the toes on his bad leg.
Now we’re getting angry!
In as stern a voice as possible I yell out “DO NOT WIGGLE YOUR TOES!”.
The kid looks at me like I’m from outer space (since I’m not following his first aid protocol), the AT looks at him and says: “who the hell is in charge here?”
A little stunned the kid looks and says “well I’m the first aider” (meanwhile his partner, the older gentlemen is just standing watching).
The AT says “there’s over 30 years experience between the two of us, now smarten up and get the hell out of our room”.
I had a big grin on my face.
After he leaves, another team volunteer comes down and we ask him to call an ambulance. The first aid kid comes back and tells the volunteer (who is at least three times his age) to go outside and wait for the ambulance and direct them in.
If looks could kill, he would have been dead three times over.
He was directed to go outside and wait for the ambulance and was shocked that he would have to do such a thing.
Ambulance arrives and we package the player up and pass on all the information they need. The first aid kid continually tries to put his two cents in while the ambulance attendants give him a look like they wanted to pat him on the head and feed him a cookie for a good job.
The player is sent off and we are cleaning up the room.
The kid comes back in and says “good job guys, thanks a lot”. I’m pretty sure I had to restrain my AT buddy… and yet the kid never did thank me for saving his life that night.
As much as I know the kid was just trying to help, it taught me a valuable lesson.
Our anatomy knowledge is one valuable tool. When he took his First Aid course he never had to memorize the Origin, Insertion, Action of muscles.
Your average First Responder isn’t going to know terms and structures like:
Things just aren’t taught that much in detail in a First Responder course (heck I had to open the textbook, just to make sure I was naming things right).
I went through three of my First Responder Instructor books and the best I could find is that students would learn:
- Anatomical Terms.
- Body Cavities.
- Body Systems.
- A three sentence paragraph on what a cell is.
- Quick description of bones and ligaments.
- Layers of the skin.
- Description of the regions of the spine.
- Difference between strains, sprains, dislocations.
- And the name of most of the bones.
I don’t say all of this as an insult to First Responders or the program, it’s just they don’t need to know that much (even though some go on to higher level paramedics and learn more) because their biggest job is to stabilize someone until more advanced help arrives.
Your Massage Knowledge Makes You A Better First Responder
When the player got to the hospital he immediately went into surgery. I don’t recall which tendons were repaired but it required surgery nonetheless.
It’s hard to know if it was just the initial skate blade cut that did it, or if it was once the player started wiggling his toes that caused the most damage.
If you’re working at sports events (or anywhere else for that matter) remember:
- The people you are there for are YOUR responsibility and you are in charge (along with other AT’s, Chiro’s, Physio’s that are working)
- The average first responder or paramedic does not have the anatomical knowledge that you have
- Put your knowledge to good use and don’t be afraid to help out, even when things are a little unsettling
- Always keep your first responder license up to date
At most emergency scenes paramedics are in charge but in this case, when it comes to your players, you are the first line of care.
You have probably noticed at most big sporting events, the team trainers and doctors rush out onto the field, ice or track before any ambulance is there.
This is your scene and you pass it off to the paramedics or first aid team after your assessment and treatment, or when you need more help.
Remember to always be respectful when you’re dealing with first responders at these kind of events, it’s best to work together for the safety and outcome of your patients.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. Using your anatomical knowledge will make for greater success in any emergency medical situation. However there should always be one person in charge of a scene. Usually whoever is most experienced should take control and direct the other medical team members what to do. Or whoever’s license is higher (I’m not about to tell one of the team Doctors what to do) since they will have far more training and experience. If you’re dealing with people who are less experienced, don’t be afraid to respectfully take control.
Looking at them and saying “who the hell is in charge here?” may not win you any points with them, but sometimes you just need to get your point across!
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