West Metro Fire Rescue prepares for football injuries

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By Deborah Swearingen

High school football kicks off this week, and in preparation, West Metro Fire Rescue last Friday held a training exercise on head and spinal cord injuries.

Groups were faced with two separate helmet-related scenarios — one focused on spinal trauma in football players and the other was a motorcycle crash. For the football portion, West Metro used helmets from Chatfield Senior High School, Dakota Ridge High School and the Denver Broncos. It’s important for paramedics to work with different types of helmets to ensure a safe and efficient removal.

Each group had to work together to diagnose the patient and treat them. In the case of the football injury, this meant removing their helmet and safely transporting the injured player to a stretcher.

The idea for the training came from Mike Binney, the newly appointed EMS training lieutenant at West Metro. It was a collaborative effort between West Metro, St. Anthony Hospital and athletic trainers at various Jeffco high schools.

“As we start to gear up for football season going forward we want to make sure that we have good working knowledge of all the equipment that we might run into on the field,” Binney said. “So everything from the way that the face mask’s attached to the helmet, different features of each type of helmet … as well as different kinds of shoulder pads.”

Working with trainers and physicians will help streamline the process and provide better information to all those involved with patient care.

It allows the paramedics with West Metro to take the information from the athletic trainer, acutely treat the patient, move the patient to the emergency room and accurately relay the information to the physician.

“Instead of trying to play telephone … we’ve got a very concise kind of record of the patient’s presentation,” Binney said.

In his new role — which coordinates hands-on training for emergency medical services — Binney hopes to organize more seasonally relevant training exercises. For example, he hosted this football injury training around the start of the high school football season, and last winter, he hosted hypothermia training as a follow-up to West Metro’s cold-water dive training.

Those participating on Friday recognized Binney’s efforts.

“Mike tries catering (the training exercises) to what’s coming up,” said Ryan Masica, a West Metro firefighter.

Chris Rhoads with West Metro said the frequency of calls during football season depends a lot on the coach and family of the injured player. But regardless of frequency, it’s crucial to be prepared.

“We have so many fields in our area,” Rhoads noted.

Binney agreed that preparation is the key to success.

“As people are becoming more hypersensitive to seeing these injuries, we’re trying to stay on the front end of it,” he said. “By familiarizing ourselves, by creating this partnership from athletic trainer to ER physicians, we’re prepared.”

“The framework is already set. We’re ready to go,” Binney added.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.