Catastrophic injuries a constant concern for Canes' medical staff

Posted March 13, 2014

Doug Bennett, an assistant athletic trainer for the Carolina Hurricanes, is at every practice and game, and his kit of medical supplies isn't far away.

— When center Rich Peverley collapsed during the first period of the Dallas Stars' game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night, his teammates, coaches and the training staff for the Stars sprang into action immediately.

Players frantically motioned to referees on the ice that the game needed to be halted, and coaches and medical staff rushed to Peverley's side to begin assessing what needed to happen next. Moments later, after he had been rushed into the bowels of American Airlines Center, Peverley's heart was restarted by a defibrillator.

Put simply, the quick reaction by Dallas' players and medical staff saved Peverley's life.

The incident also served as an important reminder to the other 29 NHL franchises that emergencies can happen at any time – and they aren't always on the ice surface.

Doug Bennett, an assistant athletic trainer for the Carolina Hurricanes, said moments like Monday hit home with medical personnel across the league.

"Any time you see an injury like that, it's you in that position. Your gut sinks just like anybody else, because he was obviously in a lot of distress," he said. "You feel for their medical team and hope everything runs smoothly."

Bennett said the Hurricanes are constantly planning and preparing for the things they hope never happen – those moments when a catastrophic injury occurs and a quick reaction can be the difference between life and death.

Before the beginning of each season, the team's medical staff holds a league-mandated meeting with doctors and emergency medical technicians that attend games at PNC Arena. They review an emergency action plan put together by Bennett and Pete Friesen, Carolina's head athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach, covering anything that would need to happen in an emergency event.

"They know where everything is, the X-ray room and more, and they know how to get everywhere," Bennett said.

EMTs are on site for every Hurricanes game, and they sit within feet of the ice near the tunnel at the north end of the arena. An ambulance isn't far away, parked just a few feet behind where EMTs sit.

Two doctors – a primary care sports physician and orthopedist – sit directly behind the team's bench, and Bennett and Friesen are steps from the ice, watching every collision closely.

"Everything scares me. In hockey, they are moving at an unbelievably fast pace, and when people collide at those speeds, you never know what can happen" Bennett said.

First aid materials – including a defibrillator – are less than 10 feet from the ice surface during every game and practice.

Before Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers, Bennett said he reminded EMTs of how they would handle a situation similar to Peverley's if it were to happen in Raleigh.

"We try to constantly evaluate ourselves and see what we can do better and more efficiently," Bennett said.

A little more than a year ago, emergency preparations at PNC Arena likely saved another NHLer's life. On Feb. 21, 2013, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Redmond's thigh was sliced open by a teammate's skate during a practice session at PNC.

Seconds after he was cut, blood surrounded Redmond on the ice. Winnipeg's medical staff rushed to his side, and within minutes he was taken to the hospital, where he underwent a three-hour surgery to repair a laceration to his right femoral artery.

Bennett said defenseman Jay Harrison called him to the ice that day after Redmond went down. When he got close enough to realize how grave the situation was, Bennett immediately called 911. Ten to 15 minutes later, 25-year-old Redmond was in an ambulance.

"If you stay in the business long enough, you will have some catastrophic injuries that you'll have to deal with," Friesen said. "That's why we have protocol, to remain calm. In a cardiac event or with a bleed, time is of the essence. If you don't react quickly, you will lose the person."

At an annual hockey athletic trainers conference last June, the Redmond incident was presented as a case study. As a result, Bennett and other athletic trainers now have tourniquets on them at all times when their teams are practicing or playing.

"There were a lot of questions about the Redmond incident, and some things changed," Bennett said as he pulled a tourniquet out of a medical pack around his waist.

Friesen said he expects the Peverley incident could be another one presented as a case study at the annual conference.

"Did you see how congested the bench was in Dallas?" he said. "We have protocol that helps us remain calm, but you also have to get the people who aren't remaining calm out of the situation as soon as possible. Those can be training moments, and if it does happen to one our athletes, we can be better prepared to handle it efficiently."

Bennett agreed, saying that he spends most of his moments on or near the Carolina bench ready to respond but hoping he never has to.

"Once it's all said and done, it's an emotional thing to go through," he said of handling catastrophic injuries. "Luckily, when you hear the good result in Peverley's incident, that's the best part of it. It reaffirms what you do and why you do it."

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  • Jeanne Gunn Mar 13, 2014

    It's good to know that the Canes have emergency procedures and preparations they've practiced to handle a catastrophic injury. I do question why it took 10 - 15 minutes to get the Winnipeg player into an ambulance after his femoral artery was sliced open. It seems he could have bled to death before that.

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