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11/11/2012 6:01:00 AM
Is medical care at Kingman football games adequate?
Academy QB Quinn Garcia was taken to a Phoenix hospital by coach's wife after suffering lacerated kidney
Kingman High athletic trainer Jenny Harpest (back to camera) works with paramedics in treating Garion Carey during a KHS football game in September. Carey suffered a concussion and was transported to Kingman Regional Medical Center for precautionary reasons. Carey’s injury was one of four during football games this season that required more than rudimentary medical care.
Kingman High athletic trainer Jenny Harpest (back to camera) works with paramedics in treating Garion Carey during a KHS football game in September. Carey suffered a concussion and was transported to Kingman Regional Medical Center for precautionary reasons. Carey’s injury was one of four during football games this season that required more than rudimentary medical care.
Kingman High’s Derek Curran tackles a Bullhead City Mohave player in September. Curran suffered a seizure on the sidelines of the Bulldogs’ final game of the season. Fortunately for him, paramedics and EMTs were at the game in Prescott Valley and were able to offer medical care, but that isn’t the case all the time.
Kingman High’s Derek Curran tackles a Bullhead City Mohave player in September. Curran suffered a seizure on the sidelines of the Bulldogs’ final game of the season. Fortunately for him, paramedics and EMTs were at the game in Prescott Valley and were able to offer medical care, but that isn’t the case all the time.

Rodney Haas
Miner Sports Reporter

In a way, you could say that football referee Tim Eyer and Kingman High player Derek Curran were lucky when they sustained serious injuries during football games this year - but only because there were ambulances standing by with medical professionals ready to render immediate aid.

Kingman Academy's Quinn Garcia wasn't so lucky when he suffered a lacerated kidney during his team's 26-12 win over Westwind Prep in Phoenix. With no ambulance on the sidelines, he had to be taken to the hospital by interim coach Wally Mueller's wife, which according to Mueller caused Garcia to be in greater pain than he would've felt in an ambulance.

Injuries are common in football, and requiring staffed ambulances at football games isn't a new idea. Some schools and athletic associations already have policies requiring them.

Not all do, however, and this season's injuries have highlighted the need for them - especially for injuries in which quick medical treatment makes a huge difference.

When Curran went down with a seizure on the sidelines of Kingman High's 24-17 win over Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott Valley, EMTs standing by treated him and got him to the hospital during a time where the difference between life and death could be a matter of minutes.

"I'm super grateful," said his mother, Jan Curran. "I've had a couple of parents point out that if this was a Kingman game, there would not have been paramedics on site. The fact that it was an away game, and that the school chose to have paramedics on the site, to me was probably the best thing that it was an away game."

When John Venenga took over as Kingman High's athletic director this year, he was surprised to learn that there aren't paramedics on the sidelines for Bulldog football games.

He's vowed to change that next year.

"Not only does it need to happen, but it will happen, plain and simple," Venenga said.

Academy already has EMTs

For the past few years, a pair of EMTs and an ambulance have always been lurking in the background when Kingman Academy takes the field at Southside Park. Most of the time they go unnoticed - which is a good thing - but on Sept. 22 they were in the spotlight twice.

Paramedics assisted a Peoria Accelerated player who broke his leg. They had just returned from transporting him to the hospital when Eyer, the referee, collided with a player and fell backward, hitting his head. Paramedics took him to Kingman Regional Medical Center, and he was later airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital after doctors discovered some bleeding on the brain.

"It's football. There is some serious stuff and you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said KAHS athletic director Shawn Byrne.

KAHS established a relationship with River Medical Inc., which provides a staffed ambulance at football games on a standby basis. If they get a call for a medical emergency elsewhere, they will leave the game.

"All you have to do is write a letter and talk to them," Byrne said. "They will do it. It's just standby. It's there versus a firehouse, and why not take in a football game?

"We've never had an issue. Every year we write the letter and every year we give them the schedule and every year they write back saying, 'OK, we will see you there.' "

There are two options, said Brad Shelton, operations manager for River Medical: Dedicated standby, which costs $125 an hour for an ambulance to stay for the entire event, and non-dedicated standby, which is what KAHS does - and it's free.

"I think any time you have a high suspicion or high likelihood of an injury or illness in large gatherings or sporting events, it's always smarter to be on the safe side and have those resources available or have them prearranged and planned," Shelton said.

"The goal is to have a scene time of less than 10 minutes in trauma patients and to get them to a trauma center within the golden hour."

Association requirements

KAHS belongs to the Charter Athletic Association. Its bylaws for eight-man and 11-man football state that an emergency trained official must be on site, and that official "may be EMTs, ambulance, athletic trainer or team doctor."

Quinn Garcia's father, George Garcia, said there is much debate regarding that wording.

When Quinn was injured, he was examined by a certified athletic trainer that Westwind Prep provided, according to CAA Executive Director Randy Baum, who said the league is currently investigating the incident to make sure there was no wrongdoing.

After the decision was made to take Quinn to the hospital after the trainer had looked at him, the trainer simply walked away, George Garcia said.

"He looked at Quinn and never helped him to get off the field," George Garcia said. "The way I look at it, had it been a ruptured kidney, he could've died right there on the field."

Quinn was transported first to Phoenix Baptist Hospital by Mueller's wife and, according to George, had to wait in the emergency room for almost three hours. It wasn't until Quinn started vomiting that hospital personnel started to treat him. An ambulance transported him to St. Joseph's trauma center.

George Garcia thinks his son's case is prime example of the need for EMTs or paramedics at football games, and he said it's the hosting school's responsibility to provide them.

"That right there shows me a lack of responsibility on the league and the hosting school," he said. "If there was an EMT there, they could've checked him out and they could've been, 'You know what? There is something else wrong here and we are going to take him to the hospital.'"

Baum said the CAA has received an initial report from the school. That report will be presented at the executive board's meeting on Nov. 21.

"We are trying to find out if everything was done properly," Baum said.

Garcia's injury cost him the rest of the football season and possibly half the basketball season. He still plans on playing football again next year, but with some added protection - a flack jacket to protect his rib cage.

"I'm going to play football," Quinn Garcia said. "I'm not going to stop doing something that I love to do. I'm not going to let an injury affect me.

"You are going to get injured. You are going to get concussions and broken bones. My injury was a freak accident and it could've been prevented had I been wearing rib protection. I'm not going to shy away from playing football."

While the CAA has taken steps to ensure the safety of its players, Quinn's injury has also raised concerns over the wording of the league's bylaws.

According to Baum, schools need provide, at minimum, an EMT, and there's an advisory on the league's website for schools to contact EMTs. In Quinn's case, an athletic trainer was present, which according to Baum had a higher certification than an EMT.

Byrne intends to bring up the issue at the league's spring meetings in order to clarify the bylaws.

"What is an athletic trainer going to do?" Byrne said. "Nothing against them, they have their role. I just think there is a strong possibility of a football injury being beyond their expertise."

California rule

To the CAA's credit, the league has been proactive on the need for EMTs/paramedics at football games.

Arizona's largest high school governing board, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, doesn't have that requirement in their bylaws.

Charles Schmidt, the AIA's associate executive director, and Harold Slemmer, the AIA's executive director, did not respond to requests for comment from the Miner.

The California Interscholastic Federation has had a rule in place since 1991 that states a football game must have EMT on site. If the EMT leaves, then the game is suspended.

Former KAHS football coach Doug Odum became very familiar with the rule when he was coaching at Kearny High in San Diego.

"During a game against San Marcos, one of their players took a hit to the head and went into convulsions," Odum said.

"There was no EMT at the game, but by chance one of their coaches had a cell phone, which was not very common at the time. He dialed 911, and the trainers and coaches were walked through how to handle it until the ambulance arrived."

Odum said the player ended up being OK, but the incident caused the CIF to institute a rule that a cell phone be provided on the sidelines. It was later amended to include the EMT requirement.

Although not familiar with the California rule, Kingman High athletic trainer Jenny Harpest is aware of the National Athletic Trainers Association's recommendation that an athletic trainer or other medical personal be on the sidelines of a football game.

"I do support that. Otherwise, you leave it in the hands of the coaches, and then who is making that call?" Harpest said. "Is it the coaches? Because sometimes the student athletes won't speak up because they want to play, and sometimes it takes somebody who is not looking at the game and not preoccupied with their own job."

Harpest had that exact situation with Curran when he came off the field in Prescott Valley. Harpest could tell that something was wrong, but Curran kept insisting that he was fine and wanted to return to the game.

Seconds later, he was on the ground having a seizure.

Harpest supports Venenga's decision to have EMTs on standby next season. She noted her experience with player Garion Carey. He suffered a concussion during the Bulldogs' Homecoming loss on Sept. 28, but it was when he started complaining about neck pain that Harpest called for an ambulance.

"I want them there. I think it would be so much better and it would take a lot of pressure off of me and everybody else involved," Harpest said. "There are situations, like what happened with Curran, when having them there and having them available is a huge assist."

Some schools may elect not to have EMTs or paramedics on scene because of the perceived cost. Venenga plans to meet with River Medical and the fire department to get something in place.

If there does end up being a cost associated with it, it's money well spent, said KHS Principal Patrick Carey, no relation to Garion.

"In the area of safety and security, if you're not spending money on that, then you are spending money someplace else and that's not as important," Carey said.

Carey knows the benefits of having EMTs at football games. Before becoming principal at KHS, Carey spend the better part of 10 years as an athletic administrator in the Las Vegas area.

He remembers a game between Desert Pine and Las Vegas High that involved a lot of hard hitting - and a player from Las Vegas High collapsed and died.

"He suffered a minor concussion before the game. He got another good hit and it was in the third quarter. He didn't really show any signs of any major distress," Carey said. "If you have somebody there, it's better to be safe than sorry."

Quinn Garcia is expected to make a full recovery and plans to play baseball for KAHS in the spring. After his experience, he strongly feels the need for EMTs at the games.

"I think they should be there at all times because I don't want a kid going through the same thing that I did," Garcia said. "That was horrible. The pain and not having the response and sitting on the sidelines was just horrible."

Curran's road to recovery will be long and filled with ups and downs. But because of the prompt attention that was given to him in the most critical moments, he is expected to recover.

"He was grateful that there was people there," Garcia said. "I'm glad there were EMTs there and he wasn't put into the situation that I was - because with his injury in my situation, you don't know if he would've made it to the hospital."

ICT - Kingman Honda
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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Article comment by: M M

To say what. Athletic trainers have a 4 year degree in athletic training at a minimum and have spent hundreds of hours studying anatomy, exercise sciences, injury evaluation, rehabilitation, and many other health related knowledge. And while the athletic trainer in this case may not have done a great job, there are plenty of bad healthcare providers. We have all heard of bad nurses, doctors, etc. Do not assume all athletic trainers do not take pride in their job and taking care of their and visiting athletes. As well to others realize that an athletic trainer will know your kid personally and by name as well as his medical history and current ailments as they are with them everyday unlike an EMT. All of which can make a situation go much smoother.

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Article comment by: say what

An athletic trainer has very little training. just some vollunteer who decided to take a few classes. that is. some continue ... some dont.

I would most prefer to put my kid into the hands of that KFD EMT any day

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: Concerned Mom of a Football Player

Well, when you r told that a "Athletic Trainer" has more certs. then am EMT, and leaves a injured player on the side lines, "Dont you see a problem with that?" The kid that was injured with no proper care, cloppased twice on the field, second time could not get up, and was in a hurdance amount of pain, as it was seen in his face and could not move. That "trainer" came over to the child and walked away, saying there was a broken rib, possibly. How do u leave a kid on the sidelines like that, knowing the amount of pain he was in? No help from Hosting team at all. the child layed there in pain and then was transported to a Hospital where he had to sit for 3hours. Now if there was a EMT or if that "Trainer" knew what he was doing or talking about then there would have been no need for this kid to endurer what he did. The possible out come from him waiting any longer for medical atttention could have been greater. Thank God the Coaches from the other team and Coaches wife jumped on the situation and took the matter in their own hands and did what was needed to be done, so this kid could get the proper attention that was neccessary. I strongely believe that there should be proper Medical Attention at Football games, no matter where these kids are playing, if its here in Kingman, or Phoenix. I am greatful for the actions that the Academy took upon themselves to make sure that they did was necessary for this young man, whos life could have been lost for someone who did not take the proper measures to check and examine him properly. To me there is no reason that this child had to suffer like he did and you can read in this article the PAIN and his EXPERIENCE, as a young man that he had to go through!! I find fault in many areas.

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: D Valdez

Catastrophic emergencies are very rare, but the consequences of mismanagement may be fatal. However, non-catastrophic injuries account for 95% of injuries and although the consequences of mismanagement may not be fatal, they affect performance, and can be debilitating for the rest of one's life. EMT's are great for the very rare stuff, but not trained for the sport specific and non-lifethreatening decision-making. Athletic Trainers have EMR training, clinical assessment training, sport equipment knowledge, and concussion management knowledge. They don't administer drugs or transport. They implement preventative measures, manage 95% of what actually happens, follow athletes throughout their rehab and monitor their return to play performance, know every athlete's name and medical background, and will never leave the sidelines for anything. Who would you hire?

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012
Article comment by: just me

I know back in the 70s when i played, there were always paramedics there. they parked at the east end zone, before Lee Williams field, and at the north end zone at Lee Williams field. I seem to remember them at every other school we played at also.

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