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Event medicine

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 01 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:020222
  1. Neil Dignon, specialist registrar in emergency medicine1,
  2. Stephen Hearns, specialist registrar in emergency medicine2
  1. 1Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow
  2. 2Emergency Department, Monklands Hospital, Monkscourt, Airdrie

Doctors are asked to provide medical cover at increasing numbers of events such as football matches, marathons, air shows, and music festivals. Neil Dignon and Stephen Hearns explain the hard work behind the glamour of event medicine

Medical services at events are mainly concerned with assessing and treating minor injuries and medical conditions. This allows people to return to the event with minimal delay and minimises any overload on the local permanent medical facilities. Medical services also have a role in resuscitating seriously ill and injured patients on site and ensuring safe transfer to hospital. In the event of mass casualties the event doctor has a key role in major incident management. Guidelines for providing medical services at events are described in The Event Safety Guide and Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds.12

Medical conditions encountered

Major events often generate crowds as large as the population of a moderately sized town. Medical problems are not simply likely but inevitable. The frequency and type of medical conditions encountered varies according to the type of event and the crowd profile.

Exacerbations of pre-existing medical problems of crowd members (such as asthma, epilepsy, and diabetes) are common. Traumatic injuries resulting from falls and assaults are also common. There may be specific risks associated with the event itself, such as exhaustion and hypothermia in runners during a marathon. Crowds at large outdoor musical events may experience problems due to the vagaries of the weather, from hypothermia to heat exhaustion. Drugs and alcohol are an intrinsic part of the festival experience for many people. Some will be experimenting with drugs for the first time, and psychiatric and psychological problems are common, often precipitated by the use of illicit substances.

Although major problems are unlikely, one only has to think of the tragedy at Hillsborough stadium, …

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