Oakes: Not quite sure how to start this week’s repartee, man. Our custom here is dry wit and irreverence, since we write about fun and games for a living, and all. Sometimes the merriment takes a back seat out of necessity, and this past Saturday’s events at Greely put football in a perspective that fortunately neither you nor I has been forced to experience in-person too often.

We are all fortunate to have Adam Smith of Leavitt among us as we turn the corner to Week 7. Before we get too deep into this discussion, I want to reiterate that my thoughts and prayers are with that young man for a quick and full recovery. I’m sure you share thoe sentiments. It all would have happened in vain, however, if we, the collective gallery that endorse and enjoy student athletics, didn’t learn and grow from Smith’s experience.

As we first reported Sunday, the system in place did its job splendidly to ensure give Smith the best chance to survive a sudden, traumatic, internal injury. Coaches, doctors, paramedics and trauma nurses performed their often thankless work to the letter. There was a plan in place, and it saved a life. The problem is that there is no way to adequately rehearse such a scenario until it happens in real time.

So I ask you a question that I posed to a sampling of our local athletic administrators this week for a related story: What change would you like to see become standard protocol in the aftermath of Smith’s injury. Or posed differently, what worked at Greely that should become standard procedure everywhere?

I’ll go with the obvious one: Having an ambulance on-site at all athletic events. Yes, this can be expensive if it the service is not volunteered, and yes, obviously coverage should be a flexible if there is a casualty elsewhere in the community during the game that merits immediate attention.

Nothing at all against the athletic trainers who serve almost everywhere and are trained almost as well as resident doctors these days. They’re wonderful. When seconds count, though, that ambulance is equipped with everything needed to intervene, as well as two people who have seen it all and are ready for the most dire emergency available.

This isn’t the kind of discussion in which there is a right or wrong answer, obviously, but is there any other accommodation you find equally important?

Pelletier: I think we’ve also started to see the proliferation of the defibrillator (say that five times fast), something that has allowed people on site to, with proper training, treat another subset of uncommon but potentially deadly ailments that can befall an athlete, even at the high school level.

There may have been incidents closer to home that I am failing to recall, but there was one higher profile case about three years ago. Longtime official Harry Moreau was working a JV game between Westbrook and Falmouth when he took ill. He suffered an apparent heart attack on the scene, and because the school was equipped with an automated external defibrillator, or AED, trained personnel on scene saved Moreau’s life.

Most schools I have been to can now say they have an AED on hand. With more and more high school athletes training harder, getting bigger and stronger, you’re also seeing an uptick in undiagnosed heart conditions, and to have an implement to fight a sudden attack may indeed prove life-saving.

It’s also important to remember, in many cases, having staff there at all is a luxury not afforded most athletes even just 20 years ago. But, thankfully, gone are the days of a coach wiping smelling salts under your nose, feigning the “how many fingers” test and putting you back into the game.

Oakes: The added benefit of the AEDs is that they could save a spectator’s life, too. I have witnessed more heart attacks in the crowd at sporting events than I care to remember.

Indeed, while we often lament the changes in sports that we don’t like, there is plenty of evidence that we have progressed in the area of safety. Trainers are (almost) everywhere. Concussion testing is universal, and many schools hold themselves to a higher standard than is actually required.

It makes sense. Nobody in youth sports administration wants to make headlines for the wrong reasons, and we certainly no pleasure in writing those stories. The hardest thing we do, far as I am concerned, is having to watch a kid get hurt and then write about it the next day.

The additions we have described here consistently prevent tragedy from unfolding before our eyes. Keep up the good work, everyone.


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