Commentary: Student Medical Histories
I had an experience at the club last night that prompted me to write this commentary.
As a school owner (and medical professional) I always make sure to get a brief medical history of my students before they start training the club. It is amazing how many new students will neglect or forget to include important medical information if left to simply fill out the school application on their own unchecked. The medical history section will often be left blank until I question them about it. Then after some basic questions from me regarding prior surgeries, allergies, illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, etc, people suddenly remember. How many times I have heard statements like: "Oh yeah, I forgot about that" or "Well, my diabetes is under conrol" or "I had surgery, but that was years ago" or "I did not think that mattered".
This is not to say that they omit information on purpose, but oftentimes people who have had past medical concerns or current issues which are well managed, will not consider them current medical concerns. How many times have I had to remind students with asthma, for example, to keep their inhaler handy? Too many. It must be explained to them that training with one's body the way we do may put the body under new pressures which may aggravate old injuries, or even current issues which are managed well. New students often have an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude towards their health. This can be potentially very dangerous.
It is extremely important to take at least basic medical histories of our students. Furthermore, it is equally important to get an emergency contact for our students. Again, this is often left blank on the enrollment forms...until I specifically request the information. Equally important is that instructors get trained in basic first aid and CPR and have the proper supplies available. How often have I seen injuroes in clubs where they did not even have ice packs available? It is our responsibility as coaches to do this.
Then, there are the occassional students who will not admit to medical concerns due to ego, embarassment, or just a desire to look "tough". The old "no pain, no gain" motto. How often during class do people experience problems they do not share, only to regret it later?
This brings me to my experience at the club last night. After class one of my students (18 years old) was feeling dizzy, seeing stars, and experiencing a headache. This is not something which he normally experienced to my knowledge. They are also symptoms of several potential serious issues.
While talking to him, I discovered that he had been experiencing symptoms like this for several weeks in and out of class, but had not shared it with anyone because "he did not want to worry anyone". More likely, because he himself was scared of the possible results of looking into the issue.
He wanted to go home on the subway, but I kept him at the club a bit to see if the problems would persist. The class was a relatively low impact class and he had experience no head trauma. During our discussion in the changing room, his nose spontaneously started bleeding. Not a good sign. He still wanted to leave on his own. I forbid it.
I kept him at the club and insisted a visit to the ER. I called his mother, who was also not aware that he had been experiencing such symptoms. He had never told her. So, his mom went to meet us at the ER.
By the time he got to the ER, his state had deteriorated significantly, he could not walk, and was very disoriented. He could not recognize his mother when we got there. Thank God he did not go home on the train on his own!
So, he was admitted and at this time, after many tests, the diagnosis is still unknown. However, some key things have been ruled out like a tumor. However, a cyst causing intracranial pressure was discovered (non malignant it appears). He is also being assessed for a previously unknown seizure disorder. But, the jury is still out.
So, folks, here the moral of the story:
If you run a club, you must know that your students may not always be up front with you about their health. And even if they have been, there is always the possibility of unknown issues arising during training. As a coach, you must have basic first aid knowledge and most of all a willingness and means to act upon what you assess. If you smell trouble, act on it. If it turns out to be nothing, great. But if, like my experience last night, it turns out to be something critical, you will be glad you did.
Lastly, you must have emergency contacts for all your students. Don't let students slide on this or their medical histories for that matter. Students who train with us are literally putting themselves in our hands. It is a huge responsibility. It is our responsibility to do our job and get the info and training we need so in the case of an emergency, we can do the right thing by the people who trust us and maybe even save a life.