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Football Saturday: are collegiate football stadiums adequately prepared to handle spectator emergencies?

BACKGROUND: Mass gatherings are a commonly occurring event, especially on college campuses. Any mass gathering gives rise to possible small- or large-scale emergencies. Mass gathering medicine is an integral part of emergency medical services (EMS). An assessment was performed to see if collegiate stadiums possess capabilities for advanced medical care when emergencies arise among attendees.

METHODS: A standardized survey was sent by a single researcher to all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I programs regarding medical services they currently have in place at their stadiums during Saturday football games. A follow-up inquiry was made at each local community office of emergency management (OEM) to confirm responses or obtain missing data.

RESULTS: Only 21.5% (N.=17) of stadium facilities reported having physicians solely dedicated to the care of fans and other support staff. Most stadiums (N.=70, 88.6%) offered ALS services for their fans, with the remaining ALS services provided by paramedics (N.=46, 58.2%) or registered nurses (N.=7, 8.9%). The remaining stadiums only offered BLS services (N.=6, 7.6%) or basic first aid (N.=3, 3.8%). One stadium offered athletic trainer services to its fan in addition to the ALS care.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the potential for a large influx of patients at sporting events, almost all stadiums have some degree of prehospital emergency care on site. More than a 10% of stadiums lacked ALS services and very few stadiums have physicians on site. Many stadiums were unaware of the resources available during these events. The ability to have ALS services on site who can provide rapid, advanced care to spectators is important due to likely delays in 911 response. At a minimum ALS services should be available within the stadium with consideration of physician coverage as well.

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