Two thirds of sports doctors have inadequate first aid skills

March 26, 2001

Sports doctors' resuscitation skills under examination: do they take it seriously? 2001:35; 128-30

Two thirds of sports doctors are incapable of demonstrating proficiency in first aid skills under examination, shows research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The research, from the University of Bath, focused on the performance of candidates seeking to obtain a diploma in sports and exercise medicine. The diploma includes proficiency at basic life support on a dummy and assessment and management of a seriously injured patient with potential spinal damage, using volunteer "casualties." It also includes dealing with a cardiac arrest and the insertion of breathing tubes. The diploma complies with standards set by international accredited bodies.

Almost two thirds of the doctors examined were unable to perform basic life support skills and/or rapid assessment of a patient with potential spinal injury, and so failed the exam outright. One in four could not open an airway using basic techniques. Almost two thirds were unable to immobilise the spine.

Almost a third of candidates failed to consider potential hazards at the scene of an accident, and the trainers estimate that the failure rate would have been even higher had the scenario more closely reflected reality. And only half the candidates examined in their skills at dealing with a cardiac arrest were proficient.

The authors comment that doctors do not like simulated scenarios and excuse their poor proficiency with remarks, such as "if it was for real I would do it properly." But the authors warn that like any other doctor, sports doctors "have a professional obligation to be competent and up to date." Both the General Medical Council and the Medical Defence Union make this perfectly clear, they say.

Dr Tim Jenkinson, Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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