On-site emergency care growing in popularity for local leagues
What happens when your kid gets hurt playing sports?
Ian Harvey reviews Panno Medical in a March 17 2014, Toronto Star Article.
By: Ian Harvey Special to the Star, Published on Mon Mar 17 2014
Dallas Stars’ forward Rich Peverley got prompt and professional care when he collapsed from a heart condition during an NHL game last week.
But what if you’re at the rink watching your kid play hockey. Suddenly there’s a collision mid-ice and one player is out cold. Or a player just collapses? What do you do?
“I know panic takes over when it’s your own kid because my son broke his ankle playing hockey and I was the worst person to help because I was so upset,” said Jim Panno of Panno Medical Inc., which provides on-site emergency care for sporting events such as youth hockey and soccer games across the GTA.
Panno said while some leagues and sports organizations make a point of hiring his services or others like him, many don’t. It’s ad hoc, he said, and puts the health and safety of athletes in all sports at risk
At the pro level, there’s a vested interest to having high-level care because the clubs have invested heavily, says Dr. Richard Goudie, who has been the physician on site at events like the Olympics, the Canada games and Pan Am Games.
At Ontario Hockey League games there’s a physician on duty, and often at the AA and triple A levels too, but once it gets down to the lower levels, cost becomes a factor.
Scott Oakman, executive director of the 40,000-strong Greater Toronto Hockey League, said all 534 competitive and house league teams must have someone on the bench who has taken the one-day safety course that covers the basics of first aid, and noted all the arenas have the so called “Mikey” defibrillators.
Goudie, a Barrie-area emergency department physician who specializes in sports medicine and chronic pain management, is involved in his son’s hockey team as a trainer and also had to take the mandated program, even though he’s a medical doctor.
“It was comprehensive in that it covered the basics,” said Goudie, the Chief Medical Officer for the Canadian team at the 2011 Parapan Games and the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games. “But it really was just an online course you could do in a couple of hours and it didn’t offer CPR or even how to use to a defibrillator (though the Mikey devices are designed for anyone to use without training.).”
He said the trainer’s real role is to “remain calm and call 911.
“They’re there to spot a problem, pull the kid off the ice if there’s a head injury or take charge and call for the ambulance,” said Goudie, who is also the team physician for the Canadian Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball team. “They’re not there to stitch up a cut and put the kid back on the ice.”
Chiropractor Robert Gringmuth of the Ontario Soccer Association soccer says screening for heart conditions is hit or miss: “If they have symptoms, players require a clearance to play. But if they don’t sometimes we pick it up in the pre-season medicals, though we stopped doing those for a while.”
OSA, which has some 290 youth clubs and 860 senior clubs, will reinstitute medicals at higher levels and while it has trained personnel on hand for major OSA events, at the club level it’s up to individual teams and tournament organizers who they bring in.
“There’s a program for the coaches through the St. John’s Ambulance they take with basic first aid, like dealing with concussions, broken bones and CPR,” he said.
Oakman said trainers are taught to look for concussions and, following an incident and rehab, affected players must take a test to ensure they’re fit to return.
Most of what the league sees is the usual sprains, contusions and sometimes broken bones, he said, noting full face cages and neck protectors have dramatically reduced facial and eye injuries and cuts around the neck.
Panno, who started out as a trainer with the now defunct Toronto Blizzard Soccer Club and has up to 50 medical techs on his roster at peak times, recognizes cynics will suggest he’s only looking to expand his business but he insists it’s about safety.
Paul Mercier of the Leaside Hockey Association said there were two incidents back-to-back in 1999 in which a player unexpectedly went into seizures in a game and was choking while another suffered a neck injury.
“A parent went over the boards and took his helmet off (in the latter) and it’s probably the worst thing they could have done,” he said. “At that point a light went on.”
The following year Leaside contracted with Panno and Mercer said there have been some minor incidents like broken bones and suspected concussions but the organization just feels the players are better protected despite the incremental cost.
“It’s not much really when you consider they’re spending $200 for a composite stick,” he said.