Monday, September 16, 2013

Hope College Game Issues

As I mentioned in the regular weekly post, here is more on the topic of the events at Hope College on Saturday the 14th.

As most of you already know, we had several students faint/get dizzy/feel ill during our pre-game performance.  Here are some details, observations, and a list of some FAQs for folks to consider:

As part of Hope's celebration of the recently-acquired stadium facility (it was purchased from the City of Holland over the last year), there was a pre-game ceremony on the field to dedicate and re-name the stadium after Ray and Sue Smith, Hope's long-time football coach and his wife.  The band was given the schedule of events last week, and we were asked to be on the field by 1:10 p.m. for things to flow smoothly.

We arrived at the stadium, traveled to a nearby field for a quick rehearsal (20 minutes or so in length), and then went to the stadium.  We were in full uniform this entire time, with temps in the mid-50s/low 60s.  After we entered the field the band went to parade rest to wait for the ceremony to conclude, at which time we were to play the National Anthem.  During the approximately 20 minute ceremony, several students began to feel woozy and a few eventually passed out and/or were removed from the field.  Medical personnel from both the Hope and Milliken teams, local paramedics already on scene for the game, and several parents quickly tended to the students who were feeling ill.  One student was transported to the hospital but was home by Saturday evening.  All of the students in question either left the game with parents immediately or were taken home after halftime (at their/their parents' choice).  None were allowed to march at halftime on recommendation of medical personnel.

That pretty much sums it up.  It was an unfortunate situation, but one that is somewhat familiar given the circumstances; it has happened as we stand at the cemetery during the Memorial Day tribute more than once.

Some thoughts and observations as I have pondered this situation over the last 30 hours or so:
  • The turf field, as we all know from band camp Thursday this year, reflects LOTS more heat than regular grass or even pavement.  60 degree air quickly radiates to 80+ in the sun.
  • Many students may have overdressed - with the chilly morning temperatures, several folks wore layers beneath their uniforms, which may have contributed to the heat.  (Though not all students who fell ill dressed in layers and not all who dressed in layers fell ill.)
  • When asked, it was discovered that many of the students in question had not eaten yet that day (though again, not all).
  • In my opinion, teenagers are almost never well-hydrated.
  • We stood for a very long time, even at parade rest...  Students may not have been standing with a relaxed enough posture (i.e. locked knees), which may have affected blood flow.
  • A couple of students have said that once others began to fall, they too felt a little woozy and consequently went down themselves.  Even I had to convince myself during the first half that I was not feeling ill, and I was definitely well-fed and -hydrated that day as I usually am.
All of these factors added up to some ill health, though any two or three alone would not be an issue.

Some FAQ's that I figure many of you may have at this point:
  • How can we prevent this from happening again? 
    • I don't think it really CAN happen again.  I cannot envision a situation in which all of the above factors come into play.  At football games, festivals, and parades we have slightly different procedures in place and are never standing for that length of time.  There is Red Cross staff on hand at all three Tulip Time parades.  During Memorial Day we are constantly reminding students to relax, and in the event of extreme heat we dismiss the band after our portion of the cemetery program.
  • What about staffing?
    • Based on the response of Mrs. Landes, Mr. VanDerMeulen, and the parent crew as well as that of the entire training staff of both benches, we had ample coverage.  Again, during our other performance situations things are not the same; we feel we have plenty of adult staff on each outing.  It would be nice, however, if there might be an RN or MD who would be able to volunteer services occasionally.  Please contact me if you would be interested.  We would not need you very often! 
  •  Could something else have been a cause of this?
    • I don't believe so.  The students in question were all standing in the same general area, possibly adding to the psychosomatic issue, and most were first-year students, un-used to standing that long in uniform (this is not at all to say that they are at any way at fault!!).
  • What can parents do to help?
    • The biggest thing is to make sure that your kids eat and drink before performing.  Many students never eat breakfast.  This may not be a problem if they are going to sit in a classroom desk until lunch time, but the amount of physical activity involved, combined with the heat, etc., on Saturday, made nutrition and hydration a very important thing.
  • What are YOUR plans to see that this doesn't occur again?
    • I indeed was unaware of how all of the factors would add up against us.  It was a cool morning, a beautiful fall day, the kids were theoretically well-rested, etc.  In the event that we will be standing for a similar length of time in the future (i.e. Memorial Day), I will make sure that they remember to keep moving at least a little so that they can avoid this, as well as reminding them about hydration and nutrition, which I usually do at Tulip Time, for instance. 
  • My son/daughter was very embarrassed by this...
    • And someday he/she will tell your grandchildren about it...  "I remember back in my day we were standing for so long in those hot uniforms (which 20 years from now will weigh about 50 lbs and be constructed of wool, iron, and rock) that 74 people fell over on the field."
    • If your child is being teased due to this, please let me know.  I guess I would tell them to expect some good-natured ribbing, but anything that goes beyond that should be brought to my attention. 
 Thanks for your understanding and a huge thanks to the Hope and Milliken medical staff as well as the Hope concessions folks for basically depleting their supply of bottled water for the rest of the band during the first half.  

Please send me an email if you have any questions or concerns regarding this situation - kwalker@zps.org