Ambulances Not Required at High School Athletic Events

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COLUMBIA - The balance between student safety and budgets took center stage at a mid-Missouri high school in October. There was not an ambulance at the Halloween game that left Tipton football player, Chad Stover in critical condition for two weeks.

According to the Missouri State High School Activities Association, schools aren't required by law to have medical personnel at athletic events.

"Ambulances are not a requirement, we recommend they try to have ambulances or medical personnel," Jason West.

In fact, according to a MSHSAA report only four percent of Missouri high schools have full-time athletic trainers. If schools can't afford to have any other medical personnel present, athletic trainers are licensed health care professionals.

"Maybe you as a parent, would take your child to a local pool and let them go to the pool and drop them off," said St. Mary's Hospital Sports Medicine Coordinator, Pat Forbis. "But chances are, if you went to that public pool and there was no lifeguard there, you probably wouldn't want to drop your kids off."

Something Forbis says is similar to the current coverage at sports events.

"Well many parents drop their kids off to schools and club activities without any medical coverage at those activities," Forbis said.

Eldon, a town slightly bigger than Tipton, has ambulances at its varsity football games. Eldon High School relies on local doctors, medical personnel and volunteer services for their athletic events.

"Without the support of our local doctors that really help us, we wouldn't have somebody on the sidelines all the time because we simply can't afford it," Athletic Director Colleen Abbott said.

School budgets would make enforcing a law requiring schools to have full time medical personnel challenging.
"Even if they made it a law, they're not going to give schools any resources to make it happen," Abbott said.

Another issue schools may face is finding the manpower.

"If you look at small counties and large counties in rural areas, there may be one or two physicians available for the general population of that area," Forbis said.

If laws aren't an option, Forbis said the recent events should spark conversations at home and school.

"Parents need to sit down and decide, and they need to be aware of if they're going to be in a club sport or they're going to be in an organized high school activity," Forbis said. "They need to be aware of and ask questions as to what kind of medical services are available for practice and game activities."

Something Abbott says is already happening at Eldon. If any good came from the recent events in Tipton, Abbot said students, parents and faculty are taking a step back and reflecting on their current plans.