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A Paramedic’s Response to Supercross Red Flagging Issue

On January 30, 2000, MD wrote briefly about two crashes at the Phoenix Supercross last weekend, and a decision by track officials to allow the races to continue while injured riders lay unconscious and/or immobile in the middle of the race track. Although MD has had numerous responses to this article, the following e-mail underscores some of the points we made and comes from the perspective of a firefighter/paramedic involved in motocross track safety.

MD also wrote about Supercross safety, in general, and the rising number of accidents a few weeks ago (January 19, 2000). Although the opinions were varied, the general tone of the responses to that earlier article were interesting, and we will post excerpts of many e-mail responses either this evening or tomorrow. For now, reader Steve Reincke had this to say about treating injured riders during a race:

My 12 year old son races motocross, and has since the age of 8. I am a firefighter Paramedic with the Las Vegas Fire Department. I also provide and assist EMS at the local motocross track. I have to say in the years I have been on the track evaluating injured riders that it is both dangerous and not beneficial to the downed rider or the EMS provider to be on the track (or close) for the following reasons:

(a) Airway. The first and most important evaluation … you can’t hear them breathe, and it is difficult to see chest rise with a protector on and a full face helmet. Hearing lung sounds is a joke even with a stethoscope when bikes are going by, even in other areas of the track.

(b) Assessment. Assessing the conscious rider is difficult at best when you cannot hear the answers to your questions; compounding that is the child racer that is crying and trying to answer between gasps, and bikes and screaming parents … etc.

(c) Packaging and moving the patient. You’re already in dirt/mud, on unlevel or soft ground, have bikes going by so that your area to work is limited, and all the while you are trying to assess and immobilize the patient, remove a helmet, attach a c-collar and put the patient on a backboard to carry him off the track (hopefully to an ambulance where you are both safe and it’s quiet).

All this goes on while your anxiety and stress is already high due to the dangerous situation, and then you have to worry about my own pet peeve … I pray that you have a flagman to start with, or worse than not having one is an untrained flagman who on numerous occasions doesn’t see the wreck or worse … DIRECTS RACERS TOWARDS YOU!

I can’t help but think that PACE has no jurisdiction over the rules of racing … the decision to stop a race rests solely with the AMA officials on the track … and this decision needs to be made more often in both professional and amateur racing to protect the one or more riders down and the numerous EMS providers on the track trying to help and protect them!

These are but a few of my observations from the trenches, for what it’s worth …