High School Sports

School districts reviewing emergency response protocols after player's collapse

In the unfortunate event that a high school athlete collapses during a game, several school districts around the Kansas City area have similar protocols that dictate how the situation is handled from the team trainers to the hospital.

This week, districts are reviewing their policies after seeing Olathe East senior linebacker James McGinnis collapse Friday and be taken to the hospital for emergency surgery to relieve pressure and stop bleeding around his brain. According to coaches, McGinnis’ heart rate, blood pressure and breathing were normal, but he was unresponsive.

Under the Olathe school district protocol there were athletic trainers provided by Olathe Medical Center for each school, in addition to medically trained police officers and a Paramedic Advanced Response Unit from Johnson County Med-Act on-site when the event occurred at the Olathe District Activity Center.

“We had quite a number of agencies and first responders that were on-site providing medical attention to this young man and any injury at our football games,” said Erin Dugan, assistant superintendent of general administration for Olathe Public Schools. “At this point we feel good about how it was handled, but we have to gather the information and be responsible and do a nice review of that.”

From there, McGinnis was turned over to an ambulance unit from Johnson County Med-Act, which transported McGinnis to the hospital.

“An ambulance with additional paramedics arrived on scene within seven minutes,” Med-Act public information officer Angela Fera said in a statement. “The injured player was en route to the hospital 13 minutes after 9-1-1 was called.”

Med-Act works with a number of other school districts on the Kansas side, including Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission. The biggest difference in their arrangement is that the latter two rely on their travel times of three minutes or fewer to fire stations in lieu of the advanced response unit. They also have team doctors who work with trainers from the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Kansas Hospital to determine extra needs.

“We are very fortunate in Blue Valley because both of our varsity football facilities have EMTs (emergency medical technicians) three blocks away,” Blue Valley director of school administration Lane Green said. “We get very quick, prompt and swift attention when we call for EMTs to arrive on the scene.”

On the Missouri side, the Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit school districts add another level of medical attention with an ambulance on-site unless it is in the process of responding to another call in the area. They also have doctors and full-time trainers on the sidelines for every home football game, according to their district activities directors.

In his first year as the Lee’s Summit district A.D., Richard Bechard said he has spent the last few days analyzing the systems in place at the district’s three high schools.

“I think anytime something like this happens, you have to reflect on what you’re doing,” said Bechard, who previously served in the same position for the Blue Valley School District. “Clearly in a situation like this, you need to do checks from time to time to see if the protocol is working — just to make sure you have the necessary things in place to get help to kids as quickly as you possibly can.”

Mark Bubalo, the Blue Springs district A.D., said Blue Springs and Blue Springs South home games typically feature several doctors on the sidelines. He said the teams usually have at least one doctor volunteer to attend road games, too. The trainers are employed by the school district, and they are taught how to handle emergency situations.

“They know they’re there to respond quickly if something happens,” Bubalo said. “We feel like we have the right people in place to handle those situations.”

The Star’s Sam McDowell contributed to this report.

To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to kgier@kcstar.com.

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