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EMS standby at football games widely varies in US

While some areas offer two free ALS units at every game, other locations don’t have ambulances on standby at any game

Recent incidents involving teenagers and younger children who died while playing football raised questions regarding EMS’ presence at high school football games.

When Cam’ron Matthews, 16, suffered an aneurysm during a football game in Texas, there wasn’t an ambulance on standby.

A few weeks later a 9-year-old from Ohio died during football practice and a 17-year-old from Kansas died during a game.

We recently asked EMS1 readers about their departments’ coverage of high school football games. The results highlighted how varied the coverage is from state to state, and from county to county.

We also asked readers to share their local practices. Check out their responses below. Is the practice different in your area? Leave a comment!

ALS standby at every game
“The county I work in, rural South Carolina, has an ALS ambulance at football games. Game can’t start till we are there. If a player goes down, the crew calls for an on-duty truck to transport.” — Todd Immesberger

“We send a 911 operating ambulance with a paramedic and an EMT-I or AEMT on board. This is in Georgia.” — Christy Ellen Giles

At least an EMT present
“I am actually currently sitting at a game and reading and typing this between plays. Most schools in our area have a BLS truck committed to the game for a varsity game. Then lower level games have at least an EMT on site. Most of the time in an ambulance.” — Nicole Kreitzer

“We have an ambulance at all varsity games and at least 1 EMT at the other games. We also have people standing by ready to respond if needed. We are a volunteer service in rural Montana with the nearest hospital is 27 miles away.” — Terry Ross

“1 BLS crew at Varsity games. Usually a single EMT for JV games.” — Dylan Young

BLS units always present
“In Moore County North Carolina all high school games are covered by a BLS transport truck.” — Daniel Hunt

“I’m an EMT in California too. At the schools here there are always EMT standbys.” — Jennifer Jones

Nondedicated service
“Our service usually has an ALS unit at games. However they are not dedicated units. If a call for service comes in they do leave the game to answer calls.” — Mark Mann

“Here we sit ALS standby at the game until tones roll, then we head to the call. If another unit is available they sit standby until we are back in the county.” — Chantelle Jones

“We are at all games in our service area until call volume dictates that unit has to take a call or it is closest unit, but then usually another unit will post that game. Most are non-dedicated so we are not required to be there but if units are available we attend all football games.” — Jeffery Caldwell

“In our town we attend JV but if we get a run, we have to leave. The board of education doesn’t pay and we have to cover all emergency runs.” — Diana Adkins Bowen

Two ALS units on standby
“We are deeply entrenched in our community and part of that is just providing two ALS crews to every home football game. Free of charge, we consider it giving back to the community and it provides some visibility to the public, our customers. Just last year, during a game, we had a referee go down with cardiac arrest. They brought him back. Then a short ten minutes later had a diabetic emergency in the stands that upgraded to cardiac arrest. If we hadn’t had those units there, on standby, there could have been a different outcome.” — Kip Benbow

“We are a small volunteer department in west Texas, but we send two ambulances, both staffed with paramedics to all of our football games. That way, if one has to leave to answer a 911 call, we still have a rig at the game.” — Vickie Johnson Fowler

“In West Virginia we usually have two ambulances at varsity games because play has to stop unless there is an ambulance present. With two trucks one can transport an injured player while the other remains on standby. Dr. Kyle in Southern West Virginia has a wonderful program called Friday Night Medical Time Out training ambulance personnel, coaches, trainers, and other school authorities to get together before each game and make sure we are all on the same page. I’m in Pocahontas County, one of the most rural counties in the state. We can provide this coverage because we have six squads, two paid and four volunteer. No ambulances are paid to be on standby.” — Janet Ghigo

Paid service
“We provide either ALS or BLS ambulance depending on staffing. We do charge for the service. The ambulance is available for anyone on site needing care or transport.” — Brittany Schumacher

“We have committed units on every HS football game. If you pay the EMS service, they will find the coverage. Our football units are staffed separately from the 911 system and the crew is guaranteed to go home after the game. Many times these shifts are filled with administrators and supervisors if no one picks up the shifts.” — Trey Spooner

“In Pittsburgh we cover high school football, soccer, some volleyball, track as well as college and pro sports. NFL, hockey and MLB require coverage. All of it is paid as extra work by major sports, colleges and Pittsburgh public schools. I guess we are lucky as are the HS, colleges and pros.” — Kat Hill

No coverage
“We have 4 small schools in our county, every year they struggle to get coverage. Privates say they are going to be there yet most don’t show up...You EMS gurus who are not from rural Texas, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” — Dennis Kelley

“Too costly. We need to save money, $50-$70,000, for our teacher salaries. 6 home games at $1,000 a game. Yep, not worth it.” — Colin Brooks

The EMS1 Community Q&A section features EMTs and paramedics answering questions from “Why don’t paramedics run to patients?”, to “What medic habits can’t you shake?” From the lighthearted, to the clinical, we’ve asked and you’ve answered.

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