Five Tips for Dealing with Injured Players

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

John T. Reed is a former high school football coach who has published eight books about the sport – covering topics ranging from injury prevention to player safety.

Train yourself to handle an emergency.

Reed recommends that if a player has a medical emergency related to his head or heart – or if the condition is heat-related – a coach should call 9-1-1. “Go through a drill with the team practicing what happens when a player suffers from heat stroke or a concussion. Coaches need to know when to call 9-1-1.”

Have a certified trainer at practices and games.

A certified trainer should be able to take the guess-work out of a coach’s hands following an injury. A trainer is able to determine the severity of an injury and treat it. Many times, a trainer can also determine the next course of action if a player needs to be referred to a specialist for a specific type of injury.

Do not pretend to be a doctor.

You wouldn’t hand over play-calling duties to a doctor on game day, just as a doctor wouldn’t give a football coach responsibility for diagnosing injuries and prescribing treatment.

“I don’t think coaches have any business doing independent diagnosing or prescribing,” Reed said. “It’s not a shucking of responsibility. It’s a coach knowing that there are experts who know more.”

Seek out a sports medicine specialist for a rehab plan.

A sports medicine specialist is oriented toward helping an athlete get back on the playing field as fast as possible. Studies show that active rehab is more effective than a sedentary rest period – for most muscle and soft-tissue injuries. “If it hurts to lift 15 pounds – but not 10 – a sports medicine specialist will want you to lift 10,” Reed said.

Delegate oversight of rehabbing players.

A head coach is responsible for making the most of practice time for the active players on his roster, making it difficult for him to monitor players who are rehabbing injuries. Delegate the responsibility to an assistant coach or a physical education teacher in school.

“A head coach can test for progress on his own time, but that should be outside of practice time,” Reed said.

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