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19 Ways Trainers Can Improve Emergency Action Plans (EAPs)

Posted by Bethany Nock on Tue, June 6, 2017


Athletic trainers strive to prevent injuries. But even with required pre-participation physicals and emphasizing safe practice and training techniques, injuries are an unavoidable part of sports.

Emergencies can happen at any time during a practice or game. This means athletic trainers and the entire Sports Medicine Department must have an emergency action plan (EAP) that ensures all personnel are prepared to provide immediate, appropriate medical care in the event of serious injuries.

  • A few general guidelines for creating an EAP are as follows:
  • The first step in creating an EAP should be to define the responsibilities of each member of the emergency medical team and designate a chain of command.
  • Because first responders will vary depending on the day and sport, it’s important to identify all possible individuals who may assume a role on the emergency medical team as well as their level of training.
  • The EAP should be developed with collaboration between athletic staff, healthcare professionals, local EMS workers, on-site medical personnel, organization administrators and public safety officials.
  • Once finalized, the EAP should be distributed to these groups.

The most critical components of an EAP are communication, equipment, transportation and continuous improvement. Here are a few ways trainers can improve emergency action plans in these areas.


  1. Athletic trainers and emergency medical personnel should meet before the event to discuss each person’s duties and build rapport.
  2. Emergency care providers should have reliable access to direct communication with the emergency medical system. The communications system should be inspected before any athletic event, and a backup communication plan must be in place should the primary system fail.
  3. Each member of the emergency team should have access to contact information for all other team members.
  4. In the event of an emergency, emergency care providers should be ready to provide the following details:
    • Their name and phone number
    • Exact location of the emergency as well as directions to the site
    • Types of injuries sustained
    • The condition of the athlete(s) and the type of aid being administered
    • Number of athletes involved


  1. All necessary emergency equipment and supplies should be at the site of the athletic event and quickly accessible to all members of the emergency team.
  2. Each emergency care provider should know how to properly operate, care for and store all equipment.
  3. Members of the emergency team should only use the equipment appropriate for their level of training.
  4. Equipment should be properly stored in a clean, climate-controlled area and should be regularly inspected to confirm it is operating correctly.
  5. To ensure equipment is routinely maintained, one emergency care provider should create an inspection log book that should be updated regularly


  1. Since every venue has a distinct layout and accessibility, each site must have its own EAP that specifies the site’s address, different locations within the venue, phone numbers for people who should be contacted in the event of an emergency, designated ambulance entrance and fastest way to reach a nearby medical facility.
  2. For especially high-risk activities, the EAP should require an ambulance on-site.
  3. When an ambulance is already on-site, there should be a specific parking area for the vehicle with easy access to athletes and an unobstructed route for exiting the venue.
  4. The emergency team should be aware of the ambulance’s capabilities (for example, whether EMS can offer basic life support or advanced life support services) and equipment on the vehicle and the level of training of the EMS workers on board.
  5. There should be a plan in place to ensure playing areas are properly supervised should an emergency care provider leave the site to assist in transporting an injured athlete.

Continuous Improvement

  1. The athletic trainer should document all responses and actions taken during the emergency situation to have an accurate record of the event.
  2. Following the resolution of an emergency situation, all emergency team members should participate in a debriefing to evaluate how the situation was handled and identify areas for improvement.
  3. Each year, the emergency team should review the EAP, rehearse the EAP, discuss expectations and assign responsibilities to each team member.
  4. All athletic personnel should take necessary training to ensure any certifications (for example, CPR and First Aid) are up to date.
  5. Any new policies should be reviewed prior to the start of the season or event.

In an emergency situation, every second counts. With a well-organized emergency action plan in place, athletic trainers and the entire sports medicine team can be confident about their ability to provide high-quality care under pressure.

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