Medical staff recommended at CT high school hockey games, but not required

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Protocol for responding to medical emergencies and injuries at high school sporting events can vary widely depending on where the game took place, the sport being played, and a myriad of other factors. But in much of Connecticut, the presence of an athletic trainer or other medical personnel at most high school level sporting events is not a requirement.

That lack of standards may not change immediately following the death of Teddy Balkind, a 15-year-old college junior hockey player at St. Luke’s in New Canaan. Balkind died Jan. 6 during a game at Brunswick School in Greenwich when his neck was struck by a skate during the game, police say. School and police officials did not detail the immediate medical response to the crash, saying only that he was taken to Greenwich Hospital where he died that night.

Rules of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council, the governing body of Bunswick-St. Luke’s game and other sports matches involving prep schools remain unclear. A request last week for more information on league rules, including whether there is a mandate to wear a neck guard, went unanswered by a spokesperson.

“NEPSAC continues to extend its support and care to the St. Luke’s and Brunswick school communities,” the board said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to NEPSAC than promoting a sporting experience that is both rewarding and safe. As is our responsibility, NEPSAC continually reviews the rules of the game that govern our sports in partnership with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. As always, we will share more with our community if our standards change.

Other Connecticut schools – public and private – are largely governed by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. The organization does not require sports coaches during ice hockey matches, which is recommended. Executive director Glenn Lungarini, however, said he could not recall a match that did not include the necessary medical coverage.

“Not all schools employ a sports coach and when we look to establish requirements for certain activities we look at how coaches can best be used,” Lungarini said. “In hockey, I don’t know of any game where there is no sports coach.

Ridgefield High School athletic director Dane Street has called ice hockey a high-risk sport for injury, which is why it is prioritized for school game coverage.

“It’s definitely at the top of our priority list when it comes to multi-event days,” Street said. “Just like you would probably prioritize a football game over a volleyball game. The level of contact, speed and risk of injury are pretty high in hockey, so we’re putting that at the top of the list. and we make sure to cover them.”

CACL guidelines recommend that schools make a certified athletic trainer available to all student-athletes in the school, and that a “full-time” athletic trainer be on campus and for all games. and workouts.

“The presence of a certified athletic trainer ensures that the highest standard of medical and safety care is provided to children,” reads the CIAC manual.

Athletic departments are “charged” with training coaches to deal with certain health issues such as concussions, cardiac arrest, and heat illness, and athletic trainers are key to planning and executing emergency action plans.

“Due to the extensive, high-level training required to keep students safe, athletic directors and coaches can no longer be expected to bear full responsibility for medical care. Every CIAC member school athletic program should have a full-time athletic coach,” the manual states.

West Haven athletic director Joe Morrell, who coached the school’s men’s ice hockey program for nearly 30 years, said medical coverage was usually handled by host teams.

“It is important to have this coverage. God forbid anything to happen,” Morrell said. “We have a coach at almost all of our football, basketball and other sports events. So there’s a coach at every event just to be on the safe side.

For Darien, hockey games are covered by both a coach and a paramedic.

“It’s necessary for safety,” Darien sporting director Chris Manfredonia said. “We’ve been doing it for a long time. We are used to having as much coverage as possible.

On Saturday, the Brien McMahon/Norwalk co-op hosted Westhill/Stamford at the SoNo Ice House and the athletic trainer was unavailable for the game. Instead, McMahon athletic director John Cross hired an EMT to cover.

“We have our athletic trainers there, and we have EMT coverage if they need to be there,” Cross said. “Having a sports coach who has a higher level of expertise makes perfect sense. They are able to help with injuries and do a better job than us.

[email protected]; @dstewartsports

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