The Colts earlier this month hosted 25 local high school athletic trainers for a free Sports Emergency Response Training (SERT) session, one which taught and reinforced life-saving strategies and techniques focused on heat stroke and cardiac arrest.
Heather McGowan, the athletic director at Ben Davis High School and a certified athletic trainer, attended the session at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. She additionally signed up Ben Davis' head athletic trainer as well as two middle school trainers to attend, knowing the critical importance of the no-cost session.
"It's a great partnership with the Colts and our high school association," McGowan said. "When that invitation came out, I signed all our troops up and then asked if they were available — I was not going to miss being one of the 25 spots that were available."
During the program, the Colts' medical staff partnered with Sports Medicine Concepts' team of professionals to administer SERT – which included some techniques McGowan said her training staffs will immediately implement to treat heat illness. One demonstration was on using cooling tarps, which provides an inexpensive, transportable way to lower body temperature outside of settings (i.e. a football stadium) where a cold tub is accessible.
Through the method, a tarp – like one you might have covering something in your backyard – is folded and held by a few people to resemble a taco, and an athlete experiencing heat illness is placed inside it and cold water is poured in, lowering body temperature.
"None of us had seen the tarps used for doing cold water immersion out in a rural setting away from the stadium," McGowan said. "That's something you can implement right away and that saves valuable time in treating somebody with heat stroke. … It's something every training program can have and it's going to save lives."
McGowan and the trainers at the session were also instructed with hands-on practice on how to use a universal carrying bag called the Mega Lift, which can transport someone as heavy as an NFL offensive linemen to a dunk tank to cool off if they're stricken with heat illness.
The heat stroke training was half of the session, with cardiac arrest training the other half. Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest during last season's Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game only re-emphasized the importance of cardiac arrest training, with Bills assistant athletic trainer Danny Kellington's quick identification and action in administering CPR critical in saving Hamlin's life.
The SERT session reinforced the importance of trainers working together as a team and quickly delegating jobs and assignments during a cardiac arrest event, as well as refreshing proper CPR techniques and strategies.
For McGowan and the trainers who attended, learning both new techniques and refreshing old ones will benefit not only the players they service, but the Indianapolis-area communities that will gather for high school sports in the coming months and years.
"The more practice that you have, the more practicality that you have and then the more you can work together," McGowan said. "There were a lot of athletic trainers from Marian County there and we all work together, we all host each other's kids and we're on the sidelines. We have to work together as a unit."
"… All of us having that same training is phenomenal. It's priceless, honestly, because now we all have the same viewpoint going in. It's stuff to talk over and it's going to make our service to our community so much better."