When it comes to athletic training, the focus is always on striving for one step closer to perfection. Athletes are driven by the desire to shave half a second off their last running time, achieve five extra reps per set, and becoming more accurate with each throw. With this constant forward momentum, it's no surprise that almost no one on the field or in the gym is considering the possibilities of serious injury. Sure, everyone tries to maintain good form to avoid a strain, but a life changing accident is the last thing anyone wants to think about. However, every team and facility has at least one concerned individual who is ready for anything, and we call them first responders. These brave men and women are always ready to lend a hand and are usually excellently equipped with a medical bag prepared for almost anything.
The Spirit of a First Responder
Often when an accident occurs, the first person on the scene is not a police officer or an EMT but a concerned citizen who feels compelled to help. You will see these people helping unlucky drivers after a car accident, performing the the Heimlich Maneuver in restaurants, and running onto sports fields to help an injured player in the vital first moments after an injury. These people are heroes on and off the field and dedicate their lives to being prepared for worst case scenarios. This preparation comes in the form of training, attention, and a truly incredible set of gear.
The Seemingly Bottomless Medical Bag
The crowning glory of a first responder's gear is their medical bag, a veritable treasure chest of important first aid supplies for every occasion. From scraped knees to greenstick fractures, a first responder is ready to get a player wrapped up, off the field, and on the optimal path to recover within minutes of an injury. This means that their bag needs to be ready for absolutely any kind of medical treatment that can be applied without machines. Why do the bags seem to have an endless supply of gauze and ointment? First responders are incredibly responsible about restocking their bags, knowing that any one emergency could require their entire supply of one or more items and being short even for a few days is an unnecessary risk.
What Goes Into a First Responder Medical Bag?
When it comes to preparation, there's almost nothing more impressive than a first responder's medical bag. Most responders have a personal list of favorite extras to add, but even the contents of the initial kit are remarkable. For optimal versatility and effectiveness, each item in the bag has at least a dozen different applications, providing solutions to hundreds of possible circumstances and types of injury. While every medical bag winds up full of extra supplies and special components, the best way to get started is with a complete first responder's medical kit to make sure even the first day with a new bag is 100% prepared. Ever wonder what the full kit is made of? Here's a rundown of the contents of a Mueller Hero Responder medical bag, which is a fantastic place to begin:
- A Lot of Gauze
Gauze is an incredibly important part of any first aid kit, from the smallest fanny pack to equipping an ambulance. Every kit should have at least two or three gauze pads, but the first responder medical bag needs to go above and beyond. In sports, people are moving as fast and hard as they can, so when a tumble does occur, the possibility of a large injury is all too high. This means being prepared to cover a wide surface area with absorbent and protective gauze.
Every Hero Responder kit comes with ten packages of 3" x 3" gauze pads which will handle most scrapes, backed by four packages of the larger 4" x 4" pads for wider damaged areas that need a single piece of gauze to cover. In many cases, these pads can be unfolded and stacked to cover an even larger area. However, if an injury is severe or extensive enough, it may become necessary to bust out the 3" wide clean gauze roll which provides a complete circumference coverage of broad or wrap-around wounds. The gauze roll can also be used as a first line of defense against excessive bleeding, providing both absorption and pressure before an external bandage can be applied.
- Wound Closure Strips
While most sports field injuries are impacts or scrapes, some wounds can tear the skin open in dangerous and unpleasant fashion. For these situations, a first responder is equipped with adhesive wound closure strips which can act like temporary stitches, holding torn skin together and giving the body a chance to start healing properly right away. Because the size of an injury cannot be predicted ahead of time, sometimes many strips of various sizes are needed. For this reason, the responder kit includes a full dozen regular sized adhesive M Strips and six extra large M Strips for those truly extreme situations.
- Cotton Nasal Plugs
Most people don't know that there are no bones in the nose, it's all cartilage. Unfortunately, it's cartilage that bleeds profusely when impacted, scraped, or sometimes just because of a sneeze on a dry day. The nasal membrane inside your nose is incredibly delicate and contains a lot of blood vessels, so it's no wonder that nose bleeds are one of the most common forms of mild injury on a sports field. First responders, ready for anything no matter how minor, are equipped with at least ten cotton nasal plugs to reduce the mess caused by regular nose bleeds.
- Wound Ointments
The most dangerous time for an injury is when it's open and exposed to contamination. Immediate anti-bacterial treatment and pain relief are an important part of a first responder's duties. For mild abrasions that do not need extensive treatment, responders can use a tube of protecting and pain relieving abrasion ointment. For more extensive injuries, packets of StaphASceptic bactericide can be applied to make sure nothing dangerous gets into the wound before it can be properly closed.
- Instant Treatment Spray
For immediate treatment, when you need to get a player off the field fast, there are quick sprays that do a similar job to ointments and bandages but don't take nearly the same application time. Germa Spray will help keep a fresh wound clean until better treatment can be applied, while Medi Stat is a spray-on bandage solution that can seal the wound for temporary transport off the field and into better medical treatment conditions.
- Tape Application and Removal
The application and removal of tape is a huge part of active injury treatment and prevention measures both on and off the field. Every first responder is ready with a full kit of tape related equipment, from pre-tape spray to cutters. The full list includes one bottle of pre-tape spray which helps tape stay stuck, a roll of M Wrap, a roll of M Tape, a Tape Tote which is a special organizer to stack rolls of tape into, a tape cutter, and finally a bottle of tape remover spray in case the tape decides it doesn't want to come off.
- Elastic Bandages
In both open and closed wounds caused by impact or strain, elastic compression wraps are incredibly important. They can support a damaged area, reduce swelling, and be used to wrap around and support an area already covered in ointment and gauze. Every first responder needs at least one roll of elastic bandage, and many prefer to carry some breathable Wonder Wrap as well.
- Exam Gloves
Cleanliness is a vital part of any medical treatment. There is no point in cleaning a wound only to contaminate it with unsterilized hands. For this reason, responders always carry medical grade exam gloves, and the Hero Responder kit comes with a helpful glove canister to keep them sterile in the medical bag.
- Cold Relief
When you push your muscles too far or suffer from an injury that causes swelling, the best treatment is a steady application of cold. A responder medical bag includes two kinds of cold application: fast and extended. The cold spray helps to reduce swelling fast from the moment the damage occurs while the instant cold pack can be used when ice would be applied but is not available.
- Lubricating Ointment
Finally, addressing the smallest but by no means unimportant injuries, those caused by friction. Sports involves a great deal of equipment, from shoes to shoulder pads, and in many cases it can rub an uncomfortable raw spot. Lubricating ointment is a powerful preventative measure to keep athletes safe from damage caused by the equipment they have to use.
If you think that's a lot of things to keep track of, consider that this is only the beginning. Many first responders also keep slightly larger equipment like splints and defibrillator units handy as well because they are the kind of people who want to be ready for absolutely anything. More often than not, first responder medical bags will be stuffed with much more than the basic kit, both in extra refill items and personal additions that the responder themselves have found to be especially useful.