At most well-run sporting events, an ER24 events medical services team is on hand to cope with medical emergencies. Sports physician Dr Byron Haupt shares his experiences of serving on these all-important teams. 

What is the role of event medical services?

Event medical services teams are there to ensure participants make it to the end of their event, says sports physician Dr Byron Haupt. They’re also on hand to look after spectators, who are particularly susceptible to exposure.

“We sometimes forget that it’s not just the athletes that have to contend with blistering heat or numbing cold,” he says. “Spectators might be even more susceptible to these effects.”

A lot of pre-planning is required, and sometimes the team practises situations in order to prepare for them. “It all starts with risk stratification; identifying those risks, pitfalls or traps, how to negate them, and how to respond to them in various scenarios,” Dr Haupt explains. 

Anticipating medical emergencies

Dr Haupt has worked at mass sports events since 2018, including endurance events, rugby, and soccer matches. He adds that the event medical services team’s role is about more than just reacting to medical emergencies. Medical event personnel also try to anticipate emergencies by analysing the field and observing participant behaviour. One of the toughest places to do this, he says, is the ABSA Cape Epic, an elite multi-day cycling race. Here the athletes are tough to read, and it’s challenging to observe whether someone has recovered from their previous stage, or whether they’re fatigued and on the verge of collapsing. 

Range of injuries

The range of injuries he encounters is vast. “You might be treating an athlete with a ‘pulled’ hamstring, and the next minute you’re resuscitating another athlete’s grandmother,” he says. Some of the more serious injuries he’s dealt with have been broken and dislocated ankles and players having seizures. Dr Haupt has also been faced with patients suffering complications from medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or ischaemic heart disease. In terms of spectators, over-indulgence in alcohol, becoming dehydrated or existing medical conditions could lead to hypo- or hyperglycaemia or other emergencies. Dr Haupt says he’s always inspired by the participants, the fighting spirit of the human body and mind, and how people push themselves beyond their limits to achieve their sporting goals. He’s committed to fulfilling his role in their journey by doing “everything I can to get them to that medal safely”. 

Do you need expert medical assistance for your event? ER24 can assist you. Click here to contact us, and one of our ER24 event coordinators will get in touch with you.