KHSAA Commissioner says "best practice" to have ambulance on site at football games, but there's "simply not enough ambulances" to cover all schools; practice under scrutiny after injury at Fayette Co. high school football game

Lexington Herald-Leader, Oct. 16, 2017

A football player broke his leg during a game. Why wasn’t an ambulance on site?
BY VALARIE HONEYCUTT SPEARS AND JOSH MOORE

When Paul Laurence Dunbar High football player Tyler Browning sustained a serious break to his leg Friday night in the school’s home game against Scott County, there was not an ambulance on site as recommended by Kentucky High School Athletic Association rules.

It took 11 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at Dunbar to take Browning to the hospital, records show.

Fayette County schools officials said that KHSAA rules recommend, but do not require, an ambulance to be on site at every football game. In Lexington, the schools contract with a private company to have an ambulance on site at all games where two Fayette County schools are playing each other, said school district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall.

But the schools do not have an ambulance on hand if a Lexington school is playing one from another county, as was the case at Dunbar on Friday.

“In other situations if there were to be a need for an ambulance, a call would be placed to 911,” Deffendall said.

Lexington’s contract with a private ambulance company covers 12 football games for this season, at a total cost of $5,760. There will be a total of 29 regular-season games played at sites in Fayette County this season.

Deffendall said although the district is not required to have an ambulance on site at every athletic event, “we have taken the added precaution of having certified medical trainers and doctors at our sporting events.”

On Friday night there were three certified athletic trainers from the University of Kentucky and an orthopedic resident who provided immediate care to the athlete, she said. Fayette County Schools contracts to have an ambulance on site at all games in which two Fayette County schools are playing each other, Deffendall said.

Generally, residents are considered licensed physicians in Kentucky, according to Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure executive director Michael Rodman. The school district spends roughly $300,000 annually on a contract with the University of Kentucky to ensure that there is a medical trainer at all practices and all games at middle and high schools, Deffendall said.

When Tyler, a senior middle linebacker, was injured Friday night, school district law enforcement officers called for a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government ambulance.

It arrived on the scene 11 minutes from the time the call was answered, said Robert Stack, the city’s director of enhanced 911. 911 officials received the call a few seconds before 8:11 p.m. The ambulance was dispatched at 8:12. p.m. The ambulance, which was leaving St. Joseph Hospital, got en route at 8:14 p.m. and arrived at Paul Laurence Dunbar at 8:21 p.m.

As of Monday morning, Tyler was out of the hospital and recuperating at home from the break to his left leg. His father Mark Browning declined to comment on Monday.

KHSAA rules recommend but don’t require that a doctor be on site and available at all regular season games such as the one where Tyler was injured. At all playoff games, the home school is responsible for providing a doctor . At all regular season and postseason games, the designated home school “shall ensure that an ambulance is available on site or properly notified of game date and time to be ‘on-call’ to service the needs at the game and an emergency plan is distributed to all teams,” according to the rules. The KHSAA recommends that the ambulance be on site during all games.

Scott County, against whom Tyler suffered his injury, has an ambulance on site for every home varsity football game, school athletic director D.T. Wells said. He was not sure of the exact cost for that service but estimated it was “a few hundred bucks a game.”

“And if they get in a pinch with their other crew or whatever, they sometimes have to leave if there’s some emergency going on and they’re out of ambulances or something,” Wells said. “That’s happened very few times.”

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said in an interview Monday that “its obviously best practice” that there be an ambulance on site. But Tackett said, “there’s simply not enough ambulances in our state to cover all 280 schools.” That’s why the KHSAA recommends but does not require that there be an ambulance on site, Tackett said.

“Because its recommended, there’s probably a certain amount of liability schools take on by not having one there. It’s a risk in another words. But it’s up to them to decide how they mitigate and weigh that risk. We just don’t have enough supply all over the state to have an ambulance at every athletic contest at every level and still service the traffic accidents and the regular other things that are happening for ambulances,” said Tackett. “Due to supply, its not proven to be feasible to require it and that’s why it’s stayed as a recommended best practice,” he said.

Fayette, Tackett said, “is a big community with a lot of stretched-out needs.” He said that Fayette school district had a “great contract” with the University of Kentucky to provide athletic trainers “who give immediate triage care.” That’s the great thing about Fayette County’s setup, he said.

Cincinnati Christian University, Kansas Wesleyan University and West Virginia State University have offered Tyler opportunities to play college football in recent months. He’s also visited Carson Newman University and Kentucky Wesleyan University this month.

Dunbar football coach Chris Mullins did not immediately return a request for comment.

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