Coach’s Guide: Focusing on Health and Safety

One of a coach’s major responsibilities is to be prepared for any medical situation. In basketball, the most common injuries are skinned knees, turned or sprained ankles, perhaps even a banged head. To cope with these injuries, always have a fully-stocked first aid kit handy. Such a kit should include ready-to-use ice packs, a couple of Ace bandages, disinfectants, various sizes of band-aids, eye drops, cotton balls, and so on. It’s your responsibility to replenish the first-aid kit after each game. There’s nothing worse than searching for an ice pack, only to discover you used the last one in the previous game.

Most important to any coach is the well being and health of his or her players. In basketball more than any other team sport, a number of injuries, near and long term, can be traced back to the sneakers players wear. The demands of the sport -- extreme linear and lateral movements -- put particular pressure on the feet that in turn can affect ankles, knees and the lower back. Indeed, if one or more of your players experiences foot pain, multiple ankle turns or sprains, pain or pressure in and around the knee, or complains of lower back pain, it’s possible his or her sneakers are responsible. Blisters on the feet are also an indication the player’s shoes are either too big, too small or have insufficient support around the foot and ankle.

In addition, before the season begins, it’s also a good idea to check with your assistant coaches or parents to see if they have medical or emergency training. By the way, make it a point to always bring a cell phone in case an emergency call has to be made.

Also, you might have some players with special needs. Check with the player’s parents as to how these special needs have to be addressed. For example, if a player suffers from asthma, you want to know where he or she carries their inhalator. Or for a player with diabetes, you’ll want to know how the parents want to handle any potential crises. The key here is doing your homework. The more prepared you are, the easier — and safer — your job will be. In terms of preventing injury, remind players and parents about protective equipment. For example, protective eye goggles have become popular as a way to prevent injury from an accidental elbow or errant finger while rebounding. Mouth guards have also become more popular with young players.

Jewelry, such as necklaces or earrings, are often disallowed in youth leagues. Review league rules before the first game, and check out regulations regarding jewelry. If the league has no rule regarding jewelry, it still might be a good idea to suggest to your players they should remove items that can create a hazard to their opponents and themselves.

How to Deal with Bumps and Bruises

Expert Advice from Tamara Poole, Head Athletic Trainer

“For the vast majority of bumps, scrapes, and so on, ice is always the best approach. Ice the injury immediately for 15 minutes, and if necessary, keep using the ice sporadically over the next day or two. The RICE approach is the best: R for Rest; I for Ice; C for Compression — that is, wrap the injury with an Ace bandage overnight (snug but not too tight); and E for Elevation. That means you want to lift the injured limb higher than your heart. For example, you want to prop up your ankle so that it’s higher than your heart.

For most of the common basketball injuries such as jammed fingers or turned ankles you’ll find that 24 hours after the injury will usually tell the truth as to whether they are getting better. In other words, if the player is still in pain a day after the injury, then call the doctor.

Of course, with any head or neck injury check with a physician immediately.”

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