By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
- On any NFL gameday, there will be a minimum of 29 healthcare professionals on site
- The medical professionals are there to ensure player safety, and healthier players give the team a better chance at winning
- At the youth and high school level it would be wise to follow the NFL example at least to some extent: coaches must know basic injury recognition and schools should hire an athletic trainer
- Regardless whether you’re a recreational team or a competitive team you’ll be able to achieve your objectives better with healthier players
Injury prevention and recognition works.
As team physicians at any level from youth leagues to elite professional athletes, our job is to ensure the health and safety of the athletes. A related component of this care is that healthier players will perform better on the field of play, and their teams will have a better chance of winning.
If you happen to be a fan of the NFL you might be surprised to learn that on any given Sunday there are a minimum of 29 healthcare professionals on the sidelines or in the stadium. Why? In the business of the NFL where winning really matters, having skilled professionals on the sidelines ensures that the best possible care is delivered at the moment it’s needed. Players who have significant injuries are managed appropriately to ensure their health, and players who have less significant injuries may continue play and contribute effectively to their team.
In reality the actual number is typically higher than 29. Here’s how it looks on gameday:
Each team provides the following, minimum 10 per team, minimum 20 total:
- 4 certified athletic trainers
- 2 orthopedic surgeons
- 2 sports primary care doctors
- 1 chiropractor
- 1 unaffiliated neurotrauma specialist
And the home team will additionally provide the following, 9 additional minimum number of stadium medical staff:
- 1 airway management physician (typically an anesthesiologist or ER doctor)
- 1 dentist
- 1 ophthalmologist
- 2 independent certified athletic trainers (aka “eyes in the sky”)
- 1 radiology technician
- 1 visiting team medical liaison
- 2 EMTs or paramedic transport crew
The typical youth club or high school obviously won’t have or need those types of resources but you’d be wise to at least partially emulate the NFL example. If you’re a high school please hire a certified athletic trainer. If you’re a coach or team manager then learn basic injury recognition, as we teach at Sideline Sports Doc.
Whether you’re a recreational team or a competitive travel team you’ll only be able to achieve your objective if you actually have healthy players. Safety means participation, and safety means winning.