Football injury fuels ambulance concerns
September 5, 2008
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For football moms, there’s nothing scarier.
Last Friday, during a scrimmage in Mannheim, Baumholder parent Katie Beyer-Rodgers watched from the stands as her son lay motionless on the turf. The cause of the injury wasn’t immediately clear, but her son was in agony and couldn’t move. An ambulance was called while a cursory assessment was conducted on the field by medical personnel.
Then the wait began. According to multiple parents on the scene, it was at least 30 minutes before an ambulance finally arrived to cart the Baumholder junior to the local hospital.
"I was in panic mode. That was my child," Beyer-Rodgers said. "Children are the priority. We were concerned that he needed immediate attention. To wait and wonder, is my child going to be OK? Thirty minutes is a long time to wait."
For Rodgers, Installation Management Command-Europe’s recent decision to review its longstanding policy of requiring ambulances at contact sporting events should result in a no-brainer decision. Keep the ambulances on stand-by, she says.
IMCOM-Europe’s second look at the policy was prompted by questions about why there are different standards for medical care at different DODDS contact sports venues across the branches of service. Army policy currently requires ambulances to be at football, basketball and wrestling competitions, though other sports don’t have that requirement.
So far, no decision has been reached by IMCOM-Europe about whether ambulances will continue to be parked nearby when the 2008 football season kicks off next week. Any change will align the policy with U.S. European Command’s over-arching policy, according to IMCOM.
While EUCOM policy requires EMT-qualified medical coverage to be provided by local installations at contact and collision athletic events, it does not mandate an ambulance be present at the contests.
Kathy Ledbetter, another Baumholder football parent, said she’s eagerly awaiting word on the decision. The Army has led the way thus far by providing ambulances, she said. Changing would be a step backwards, according to Ledbetter, who also serves as director of Army Community Services in Baumholder.
"Why would we make this decision to jeopardize our children and not ensure they have the best care?" Ledbetter asked. "With something like a spinal injury, time is of the essence."
As Ledbetter watched her friend’s child lay motionless on the field last Friday, it reminded her of a similar situation in a preseason game last year. At a scrimmage in Ramstein, a Stuttgart player was knocked out cold by a crushing hit. "His body didn’t even flinch," she recalled.
For about 20 minutes, the crowd waited an ambulance to arrive.
"You can’t live in a bubble," Ledbetter said. "Injuries can happen in football. But you have to take to proper precautions."
During a regular season game between Baumholder and Hohenfels last year, an injured player was whisked away within minutes by a waiting ambulance, she said. The game was delayed about 20 minutes until a replacement ambulance arrived at the field. Such precautions help protect the players, Ledbetter contends.
Beyer-Rodgers said her son, who spent a couple of hours in the hospital, is doing fine now. But IMCOM-E should err on the side of caution and keep the ambulances around, she said.
"My son is the first (Baumholder) injury of the season, but he won’t be the last of the season," she said. "The prevailing message for me was an injury happened that required medical attention and attention wasn’t immediate because an ambulance wasn’t available."