Safety first

Two major injuries during intramural sports matches prompted soccer coordinator Bryan Ryberg to look into Portland State’s staff training to deal with serious injury.

To his surprise, Ryberg discovered that none of the intramural sport supervisors had received basic first aid or CPR training.

After the second major injury in five months occurred during an intramural soccer match last week, Ryberg (who is not trained in first aid or CPR) realized that he and his staff were under-prepared to deal with a serious injury. A survey of other intramural coordinators revealed that no other coordinators have first aid or CPR training, either.

“There’s no real policy in place,” Ryberg said. “We all need the same training and the same plan to follow.”

All intramural sport participants are required to sign waivers freeing the university from liability in the event of an injury. The Outdoor Program and the Aquatics Center each have a different protocol for dealing with emergencies and different levels of training, according to Ryberg. All lifeguards at the Aquatics Center have CPR training.

Campus Recreation coordinator Alex Accetta does not believe there is a problem but said he sees Ryberg’s point.

“I think Bryan is right on the ball,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s an unsafe environment.”

Explaining the current situation, Accetta detailed the Campus Rec program’s rise from a four-person, student-run operation four years ago to one with multiple intramural sports and over 30 club sports as well in 2005. In four years the program has developed an employee handbook and an Outdoor Program handbook that contain the current safety protocols.

Currently all serious injuries and medical emergencies are handled by not moving or touching the injured person “unless the situation is life threatening,” according to the handbook. The handbook instructs employees and first responders to call 9-1-1 and campus safety and let emergency personnel handle the situation.

Since the injury last week, Ryberg took his concerns to Accetta. Accetta now plans to make CPR, first aid and artificial external difibulator (AED) training mandatory for all Campus Rec coordinators by next fall. Building supervisors would have the same requirements, whereas room monitors would be at least CPR trained, but most likely they would also have first aid training.

At Oregon State University every intramural employee is required to obtain and maintain certification in professional resquer CPR with AED essentials, sports safety first aid and the universal precautions for blood born pathogens.

OSU takes sports safety so seriously the school has implemented a policy which requires its employees to maintain certification of or be eliminated from the work schedule. If other Oregon universities are taking a seriouse approach to safety in their recreational sports programs why isn’t PSU?

“My goal would be to have all these folks thoroughly trained,” Accetta said, “but we’re also taking advantage of the resources around us.”

Those resources include a close relationship with Campus Safety and taking advantage of Portland State’s close proximity to OHSU, which is five minutes away from campus. Accetta pointed out that calling 9-1-1 would still be standard protocol even with the new guidelines. Oregon State and the University of Oregon also call 9-1-1 in the event of a serious injury.

“It’s not perfect, but students are safe,” Accetta said. “When you’re trying to run a program this big with a limited budget it’s hard. We don’t have a huge staff.”

Over the summer, Accetta and his student employees will focus on revamping the employee handbook, whereas in the past the focus has been on “growing the program and outreach,” according to Accetta.

The focus on outreach is in part why there are now over 30 club sports, including the recently added scuba club and surfing club. It is also why Accetta petitioned the Student Fee Committee to allow him to hire another full time employee to deal specifically with club sports, freeing him to work with intramurals.

“We needed to do a better job with the clubs,” he said. “With the current situation we can’t do it all.”