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12 First Aid Skills Every Coach Needs to Know

The Players are Counting on You


Updated January 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Coaches have a tough job: part parent, part teacher, part friend.

Don't forget part paramedic.

Coaches need to have the first aid chops to treat anything from small cuts and bruises to major life-threatening emergencies. Parents and players count on the coach to know first aid and to not hesitate in the face of an emergency.

1. When to Call 911

ambulance on football field
(c) Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The test of every good leader is knowing when to call in reinforcements. As a coach, you don't want to pull every kid out of the game for a minor boo-boo, but you also need to know when to say when. The types of injuries on the football field are going to be different than on the baseball diamond, but the premise is the same: a good coach knows when to call 911.

2. How to Do CPR

CPR on a golf caddy
(c) Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
CPR is the holy grail of first aid. This is the one skill to know above all others. If you don't know how to stop bleeding or wrap an injury or even how to open an aspirin bottle, you at least need to know how to do CPR.

3. How to Treat a Neck Injury

soccer player falls on neck
(c) Stu Forster/Getty Images
A good coach has to be a bit of a pain in the neck if he wants to get the most out of his athletes, but a great coach knows what to do for players with pains in their necks.

4. How to Treat a Head Injury

When one of your players takes a boot to the head -- helmet or not -- there could be some serious damage in that noggin. It's important for every coach to know how to recognize and respond to a head injury. It turns out that concussions aren't such a minor thing anymore.

5. How to Save a Lost Tooth

hockey player missing teeth
(c) Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Teeth are overrated. However, even rugby and hockey players need a few for chewing raw meat and opening beer bottles. If you want to be the star coach, you'll know how to get the incisors back into Bubba's mouth before the loss is permanent.

6. How to Stop a Bloody Nose

soccer player bloody nose
(c) Mark Dadswell/Getty Images
We all know Mom doesn't want to be getting blood out of Junior's soccer uniform, but if you let him put his head back, he'll toss bloody cookies all over his gym shorts. When the schnoz is gushing red, you'd better know how to get it under control.

7. How to Treat a Black Eye

Ben Kay with a black eye
(c) David Rogers/Getty Images
I know I picked on hockey and rugby already, but come on! Keep the raw steak away from these guys and let's use an icepack on that shiner. Next time: duck!

8. How to Treat a Sprain

Basketball sprained ankle treatment part of Coach First Aid
(c) Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Our poor ankles. They sure take a beating whether we're on a field, a court or a diamond. A good coach is ready for that awkward meeting of third base and right ankle. She can wrap, ice and elevate like a pro. A strong coach knows how to treat a sprain.

9. How to Treat a Broken Bone

So if it's not sprained, maybe it's broken. A good coach ought to be able to splint a fracture -- and she ought to know the difference between a fracture and a break (trick question by the way; there isn't any difference).

10. How to Dress a Wound

Do I need stitches? Do you have a Band-Aid? Can I go to the bathroom? These are all questions a good coach needs to answer at any little league tournament. You'd better know your way around an abrasion.

11. How to Recognize Dehydration

soccer player drinking
(c) Ross Land/Getty Images
Sometimes, coaches have a medical staff member to help them with the big stuff like cuts, bruises and amputations, but recognizing when an athlete is running a little dry is kind of up to the coach. Make sure you know when your players need water.

12. How to Treat Heat Stroke

If you don't notice the dehydration, this is the worst case scenario. If a player gets confused or loses consciousness, you'd better react quickly and decisively. Heat stroke is a serious problem, and it doesn't have to be crazy hot outside to get it.

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