The word "team" came up again and again as a group of CCSD athletic trainers stood on the Legacy Stadium field alongside emergency responders from South Metro Fire and Rescue on Aug. 17.
The 10 trainers from high schools across the Cherry Creek School District stood in a semicircle on the astroturf, listening intently to instructions from South Metro Training Captain Chris Wells. A Cherokee Trail High School student lay completely still on the ground, playing the convincing part of an injured athlete in one of the many training exercises of the day.
"This is a young adult who's been injured on the field during a game," Wells explained, setting up the scenario. "What does he need right now to save his life?"
The trainers offered feedback, but they were also quick to listen to the suggestions from Wells and his team of EMTs. The group of employees representing athletic departments from across the district's 108 square miles were there to learn, and they wanted to soak up all of the information they possibly could. As Wells detailed proper procedures and explained the differences between treating teenagers and adults, the trainers seemed to soak up every word.
For the second year in a row, CCSD athletic staff and local EMTs came together as a team with a simple goal in mind: ensuring the safety of every student athlete in the district. The training event took place less than a week before the formal launch of fall sports in Cherry Creek Schools, and the emergency responders' sessions came along with on-site training from physicians from the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
"Everybody needs to be on the same page when it comes to providing emergency care for all of our students," said Ashley Krause, head athletic trainer for the district and for Cherokee Trail High School. "Our trainers and coaches are highly trained professionals, but we want to emphasize the importance of practicing emergency procedures for everyone. There are always things we can tweak and improve."
The CCSD trainers went over on-field emergency response techniques with the EMTs designed to address spinal injuries and cardiac arrest before training with high-tech emergency mannequins designed to provide immediate feedback for dealing with issues ranging from cardiac arrest to seizure. Trainers practiced moving an immobile victim onto a spinal board and a gurney; they practiced responding to anaphylaxis and heat stroke.
CCSD Athletics and Activities Director Larry Bull participated alongside the trainers, and he was careful to stress the importance of taking the lessons in emergency medicine back to every individual coach in every individual school.
"We need to make sure that we're having these conversations with our coaches and staff," Bull said. "If there's an injury on the field, we need to work as a team, from the field all the way to the emergency room."
That kind of collaborative thinking has made the Cherry Creek School District a leader in the field of emergency response medicine for athletes, according to Dr. Brooke Pengel, medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
"The Cherry Creek School District is leading the way in terms of training and organized protocols," Pengel said. "They practice every year, and really do it the right way."
Dr. Sue Kaivelik, medical director of the hospital's Center for Concussions and staff pediatric emergency physician, added that running through specific, detailed scenarios was valuable for all medical professionals, including athletic trainers with years of experience. For issues ranging from concussions to lightning strikes, there's always room to gain more experience.
"This is so important. We do these kinds of trainings in the emergency department at the hospital," Kaivelik said. "Running through these scenarios starts to make the response automatic," she said, adding that a rapid approach can make a critical difference in saving the life of a child.
Wells stressed similar points again and again. Whether the victim is an athlete, a spectator or a coach, having as many people with proper training nearby can make all the difference.
"It's not lip service when we say it's a team effort. Larry Bull and the district have left no stone unturned when it comes to this training," Wells said. "The more people who are in the know when it comes to emergency response, the more people can help … It will lead to the best outcome."