Medical Timeouts, Explained

Medical Timeout: What is it, and What Should it Include?


Having a well detailed, current, and practiced Emergency Action Plan is paramount to enhancing participant safety and providing optimal patient care in the event of an emergency. While EAPs are often practiced each year or each semester, how often are we reviewing them with those that will be responding, particularly on game day?

The Medical Timeout (MTO) provides an opportunity to bring together all healthcare professionals and other necessary stakeholders to review a pre-event checklist immediately prior to competition. The purpose of this is to prepare everyone to efficiently and effectively respond in situations where timing and coordination can be the difference between a positive outcome and a potentially catastrophic one. 

Who Should Be Involved?

At minimum, all healthcare providers present should take part in the MTO:

  • Home and visiting AT(s), including any students ATs who are present
  • Team physician(s)
  • EMS crew

Others to consider:

  • Athletic Director/other Administrators
  • Campus/Local Police
  • Game Day Operations Member i.e., Who has all the keys?
  • Referees/Officials/Umpire

What Topics Should Be Covered?

Most importantly, introductions and role delineation. This lets everyone know who is present, where each will be located/what they look like, as well as what their responsibilities will be. 

Communication/Hand Signals

Review hand signals so people know what they are responding to. Also, are there other means of communication available? What channel for radios etc. 

Available Equipment

What is available, where is it located, who is responsible for its use, and has it been checked to confirm it is functioning properly?

Spinal Immobilization Procedure

This is an important point to bring up with the EMS crew. Will equipment be removed? Do they utilize a spine-board or have they moved away from rigid immobilization for transport? Ideally these have been covered and talked through prior during earlier practice scenarios, but they should be reviewed so everyone is prepared and knows what to expect.

Environmental Concerns

Is there a concern for lightning or heat/cold related illness? Who is monitoring and making decisions around this?

Other Considerations

Is there anything that might impact response?

  • Construction
  • Crowd flow/control
  • Traffic flow
  • Helicopter access?

Reviewing these items prior to the game or event will prepare both sides to work as a singular unit. Take the medical timeout before all games, and complete your Medical Timeout template as best practice. 

Want a free medical timeout template and checklist? Download it here!

For more information on Medical Timeouts, you can check out the resources from the Korey Stringer Institute

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