Monday 13th June 2011

Westport would appear to be the perfect antidote to the intense hustle & bustle of London. A sleepy coastal town on the Connecticut coast, with beach lined inlets skirting tree lined expanses of green space. The number of lacrosse goals in gardens & kids running around with lacrosse sticks explains the historic dominance of the USA in the World Championships & shows what countries like Scotland would have to do to catch up with those countries putting schemes in place to get the primary school age kids playing on a regular basis.

The evening has been spent watching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals & once again Vancouver struggle to cope with the physical approach adopted by the Bruins in the TD Arena & go down 5 – 2. Since my days spent in Whistler & Vancouver I have been an adopted Canuck fan & the record this year has been exceptional – I just hope that Game 7 back at Rogers Place sees the Canucks lift Sir Stanley.

The game for me was notable, however, for the incident that saw Mason Raymond leave the ice in the first minute of the 1st period.

Mason Raymond Injury

At first sight the injury was hauntingly reminiscent of the tackle that ended Thom Evans career against Wales in the 2010 Six Nations Rugby Championship. The fact that Raymond was driven into the immovable boards only serves to exacerbate the potential seriousness of the injury - but look at both on YouTube & you will see where I am coming from.

Thom Evans Interview (Injury incidence at 1min20secs )

The other major difference was the manner in which Thom was extracted from the field of play – on a spinal board, with care & attention being taken to immobilise his spine. Raymond was, however, left to 2 players to assist him off the ice, one under each shoulder, with his legs visibly struggling to cope with his body weight.

Now before I go any further, I am not here to criticise fellow professionals & I clearly do not know the procedures & systems that the Canucks have in place to perform evacuations of potential spinal cord injuries. I am also clearly hypothesising that Raymond suffered a spinal injury & have yet to hear anything more about the incident other than he was taken to hospital after examination in the Canucks medical room.

What I am asking, however, is for you to look at the video footage of the injury & ask yourself, what would you have done? What systems do your team have in place to deal with similar incidents? How often do you practice spinal boarding players & is it almost second nature for you & your team to work together to achieve a safe conclusion to such a scenario?

Most sports trauma management courses require a refresher 3 years down the line but if that is all you rely on to keep you safe, can you really expect to slip into autopilot when all chaos is breaking loose around you?

When our team at Hearts took our course together I decided that frequency of practise was key to optimal performance & at random intervals at least once a month we took it in turns to be responsible to organise a “scramble” to extract an injured player from a training ground environment. We treated it like the real deal & with only one person knowing the background, more often than not we wouldn't realise we were in a drill for several minutes. But I go back to my questions & ask is once a month often enough...should we be training at this once a week?

Back with the same team we made it standard practice to debrief together afterwards (training drill or real-life incident), reflect on what we did well & where we could improve in the future. & believe me, you can always do better, but you always take more positives out of the performance after several run-throughs. You also then have to decide between yourselves, which techniques you actually use & do the methods of position manipulation change according to personal, according to the environment & according to the nature of the accident. If you have questions about your protocols, take the time to see what your sport's governing body publishes in their guidelines & what your professional body has to say on spinal injury extraction as well.

In the meantime, I hope I am wrong about the conclusion I jumped to when I saw the Raymond incident & hope that he doesn't have a spinal injury. In any case, I wish him a speedy recovery from afar whatever the injury that was sustained....& Go Canucks Go!

Australian Rugby Union Spinal Cord Management Guidelines -

NATA Guidelines for Management of Spinal Cord Injuries -

Bailes et al (2007) Management of Cervical Spine Injuries in Athletes

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