It only takes one kick, hit or fall for everyone to be reminded of the risks of playing a sport. On Oct. 4, the crowd watching the Occidental women’s soccer team play against Cal Lutheran received this reminder during the final minute of regulation, when a battle for the ball sent a Cal Lutheran player to the ground, slamming her head in the process.
Once the buzzer sounded for the end of the second half, Occidental’s training staff streaked down the sideline from about 50 yards away to assist the player, who felt pain in her spine and was having trouble moving. Thirty minutes passed before an ambulance arrived to carry her off the field in a stretcher.
“I was wondering why it took so long for them to come to campus,” Jeremy Klein (junior), who was in attendance, said. “My friend went to CVS and back and [the player] was still on the ground.”
Occidental employs an on-campus medical staff in charge of overseeing the game and administering medical care in cases such as these. This staff consists of a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and one or more student workers.
Occidental ATC Taylor Woods instructed the training staff on how to treat the injured player during the Cal Lutheran game. They first determined that the injury was not life threatening or putting her at risk for permanent physical damage, then conducted a more extensive protocol before making the 9-1-1 call. While Woods assessed the severity of the injury, student worker Lucy Malloch (junior) prepped a backboard. They decided to wait for a trained emergency team to arrive after the player said she was feeling neck pain and heard a popping sound on impact.
“The ATC on duty is going to make the decision at the time whether or not he will backboard the player with the staff that is available or if we wait for emergency medical services,” head athletic trainer Joe Gonzalez said.
According to Gonzalez, all injured players are assessed in a two- or three-step process, depending on the severity of the injury.
“Our training staff did a great job following the protocol when this injury occurred,” assistant athletic director Michael Wells said.
He explained that the intense moment in gameplay made it more difficult to reach the player quickly, but that once she was reached, the process of dealing with a neck injury led to the long delay.
“The reason why people may think the process took too long is because unlike Division I schools, we do not have to worry about money being lost if we delay a game for an extended period,” Wells said. “Our number one goal is to make sure that the player hurt gets the attention they need.”
According to Wells, the injured player is doing well and improving. She suffered a neck sprain and a concussion from the impact, but is likely to make a full recovery.