Emergency Care in the AFL

Are you a Sports Trainer or Sports Physiotherapist? It’s always important to refresh on the basic principles of emergency care when covering sports games. Make time to practice and role play scenarios with your medical team. It is important staff roles are clear and communication is clearer. When arriving at a sporting venue, it’s vital that a spinal board, collar, defib, and the emergency field access is identified.

Basic first aid principles do not differ on a sporting field. The DRSABCD Action Plan is a vital tool when assessing whether a player has a life-threatening condition and if any immediate first aid is necessary.


After DRSABCD has been performed the next step in the sporting setting is to assess and manage the injury. This starts on the field using the TOTAPS acronym.

  • Talk
  • Observe
  • Touch
  • Active movement
  • Passive movement
  • Skills

The most serious injury considerations in the AFL setting often are unconscious/concussed players and spinal injuries.

Unconscious Player

  • Assume Cervical Spine injury
  • Recognise Airway compromise: Absent breathing, stridor, gurgling, paradoxical chest movements, cyanosis
  • A.V.P.U
  • Alert
  • Responds to Verbal stimulus
  • Responds to physical stimulus
  • Unresponsive
  • DRSABCD- Life support
  • Clear cervical spine
  • Concussion assessment

Clearing the Cervical Spine Clinically (NEXUS)

  • No mid line cervical tenderness
  • No focal neurological deficit
  • Normal alertness
  • No painful distracting injury
  • (Absence of intoxication)

Use of Cervical Spine Collars

  • C-Spine immobilisation
  • Reviewed as per ARC Guidelines
  • Risk of harm minimal so still endorsed by AFL
  • Correct fitting
  • Effective immobilisation
  • No compromise of cervical vessels or respiration
  • Boundaries and clear communication with ambulance
BlogMiranda O'Hara