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January 8, 2015

N.C. medics and firefighters practice foam pit rescue at trampoline park

RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County EMS and Raleigh Fire Department personnel learned about the challenges of foam pit rescue and practiced techniques for extricating an injured patient with a suspected c-spine injury in a hands-on, scenario-based training session.

Foam pits, usually filled with large foam blocks, are the safe landing zones at gymnastics complexes, trampoline parks and other sports facilities. A gymnast or acrobat might land in a foam pit after practicing aerial maneuvers or other acrobatics.

Foam pit is similar to a collapsed trench

"A foam pit is a unique workspace since the more you move, the more your body is entangled in the blocks," said Jeff Hammerstein, Chief of Community Outreach for Wake County EMS. "The pit we practiced in had six feet of foam blocks above a trampoline, which had dead space underneath it."

"Our personnel learned that the best way to stay upright and move to the edge of the foam pit was to use an 'army crawl' or roll across the blocks.”

Several crews of paramedics and firefighters, about 25 total personnel, spent about two hours training at the Launching Pad Trampoline Park in Raleigh. The facility protocol is that if a participant is injured and unable to self-extricate, 911 will be called.

Although a variety of injuries are possible, emergency responders focused their efforts on a patient with an obvious or suspected spinal cord injury.

"Our crews tried several things to both access the patient and remove the patient from the pit," said Hammerstein. "The pit has some similarities to a collapsed trench. Throwing blocks out of the pit just causes more blocks to collapse around the patient."

Hands-on patient stabilization and KED extrication

Through several evolutions the crews’ preferred method was adding personnel around the patient who acted as shoring and "kept blocks from falling on and around the patient," said Hammerstein.

Once seven to eight personnel were surrounding the patient and applying hands-on stabilization, a KED was fitted to the patient.

"A KED, regardless of the patient's orientation, can be maneuvered around the patient and then also used to lift the patient out,"Hammerstein said.

The rescue crews tried several methods, including ladders, for moving the patient out of the pit, but found the best method was laying gym mats across the top of the blocks and then walking over the top of the pit.

"A giant 'Thank You' to the Launching Pad for inviting us to practice,” Hammerstein said. What we learned is applicable to foam pits all over the Raleigh area."

About the Author

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by emailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.
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