Drop the Dummy Drill with Amy Hollingworth, ATC, RN

By: Amy Hollingworth, ATC, RN, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute

Is your Emergency Action Plan worth the paper it’s printed on?  Unless you have practiced it, the answer is probably NO.

It was a hot August day in New Hampshire for preseason football practice in 2015. Tommy, a junior lineman, was working hard like he always did. His coaches and teammates loved him for his work ethic and contribution to the team. But toward the middle of practice, things started to go wrong for Tommy. He was pushing himself through a headache, feeling dizzy and queasy but figuring he’d shake it off. In fact, he was already worse off than he realized… but his teammate Zach recognized that Tommy was in trouble when he noticed Tom was slurring his words. Zach went to get the team’s athletic trainer from the sidelines and when she arrived, Tommy had collapsed, disoriented, on the field. She activated the Emergency Action Plan. Immediately, a designated coach called 911; two players ran to open the gate where EMS would access the field; another retrieved the AED and other emergency equipment from the sideline; and several teammates helped move Tommy off the field to the tub where other teammates were already adding ice. Within minutes, Tommy was receiving care for his potentially life-threatening illness. The end result for Tommy was mild kidney damage instead of what could have been a much worse outcome. Commitment to emergency preparation and Drop-the-Dummy Drills had paid off!

Are your teams (really) prepared for an emergency?

Athletic trainers know emergencies will inevitably occur. Having an emergency action plan (EAP) can mean the difference between life and death. For example, when someone collapses in sudden cardiac arrest, their survival depends on early CPR and defibrillation followed closely by EMS transport to an advanced medical support facility. 

However, this type of efficient response doesn’t happen reliably without careful planning. Coordination of emergency planning involves school personnel, athletic trainers, local emergency medical services, coaches, and athletes.  All parties must be trained to know what to do in emergency situations, educated on where important emergency equipment is kept and directed in proper protocols for responding to these situations. 

Simply creating an emergency action plan is not enough. For best results, these plans should also be practiced. Like fire drills, athletic trainers can create emergency response drills designed to simulate a medical emergency to help refine the processes and identify areas for improvement. These practice sessions can ultimately improve outcomes for athletes in real emergency situations – like Tommy’s. Tommy’s athletic trainer did not have to spend valuable time teaching people how to help her during the emergency. They already knew.

Drop the Dummy Drills  

Drop the Dummy Drills were created by the Minnesota State High School League in collaboration with the Medtronic Foundation. They created a program called Anyone Can Save a Life: a comprehensive, easy-to-use program to help schools implement and practice emergency action programs for after school events. Program resources, all available on their website, include drill sheets, cardiac arrest team and communication templates, supply list and debriefing materials. Teams can use these drills to assess strengths and weaknesses and determine their readiness to handle emergency situations. Practicing for emergency situations improves performance and ultimately results in better patient outcomes.

Our Experience Implementing Drop the Dummy

I must admit that when we first introduced this concept to our ADs and coaches, it took some convincing. We had to educate them on the importance of preparation for emergency situations and convince them that the drills were not a “test.”  To help them understand that the drills are a way of improving performance – just as they do with their own athletes. We started with planned drills – rather than surprising coaches. We helped coaches pick their emergency response teams and taught Hands-Only CPR and AED use to athletes outside of practice time. Drill times were kept short and followed by a short debrief period with the teams. Athletes were empowered by the drills and quickly became advocates for the practice – which helped with gaining support from other coaches and school administration. Now, after 8 years of performing DTD drills with all our teams, coaches expect the drills, kids feel empowered, parents feel more comfortable, and drills are used to practice responses to several emergency situations – like Tommy’s heat stroke. 

Do you want to see what the drill looks like? Check out this video!

More information on Safe Sports Network can be found at safesportsnetwork.org.

More information on Drop the Dummy drills can be found at anyonecansavealife.org