Three words buzzed through trainer Brian Rockett’s radio wrapped around his shoulder: “Injury… heat related.”
It wasn’t the first time those words rang through the medical staff’s ears at the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Before the tournament, an estimated 3,700 players, parents and coaches from 198 teams were expected to travel down to Baton Rouge from around the South.
After three days of competition, though, the estimated number of people patrolling the BREC Burbank soccer complex has exceeded that original projection.
With temperatures reaching into the low-90s, heat-related incidents have been abundant.
“(The athletes are) used to having the humidity that’s here, but the temperature difference is a lot greater,” Rockett said. “Their coaches have been very abreast upon it, though. They have been keeping up with all their fluid hydration.”
To counter the amount of injuries, Tabitha McReynolds, the medical director for the regional tournament, assembled a team capable of handling the workload.
Nine certified athletic trainers, four EMTs with two ambulances, a handful of college students working on their athletic training certification, and several high school interns who are in their respective sport medicine programs all grind around the clock to provide medical assistance.
Add one field marshal per contest who radios the medical staff with any emergency, and McReynolds has complete coverage of the complex.
The medical staff operates out of four designated areas, including a main air-conditioned tent toward the center of the park.
There, athletes can be evaluated, wrapped up or properly treated if the case is not considered life threatening.
But the heat isn’t the only factor.
Rockett said he’s seen almost everything: scrapes, bruises, bumps, fractures and concussions.
Sadie Kraft, a 17-year-old volunteer worker from Runnels High School, said she’s seen even worse.
On Saturday, she helped with a man who suffered a heart attack, and another left the complex on a spine board.
One man even entered the primary medical tent bleeding heavily from a scrape on his head.
Kraft, who wants to attend the University of Louisiana-Lafayette after she graduates next spring, said the volunteer work has been good experience for her, and it helps her work toward her major.
Internships and other volunteer services help students get into the athletic training program at UL-Lafayette, giving her an advantage before she even graduates from high school.
“I wanted to have an internship to help with college and stuff, and I’m really interested in becoming an athletic trainer,” Kraft said.
“I’m really serious about soccer, and it’s been really nice to get to know what I want to do before college.”
With the first three days of competition completed, a large portion of the squads will begin the trek back home as the quarterfinals kick off Monday.
That being said, having fewer people at the complex doesn’t mean the medical staff will get the chance to take a break.
“It’s also going to be the athletes’ fourth game, fifth game or sixth game,” McReynolds said.
“We may not see the number of injuries like we have this weekend, but we may see more severe stuff coming. We know each day is probably going to be another challenge for us.”
McReynolds’ staff has the tournament under control, providing a secure environment for spectators from around the country to enjoy.
“They’ve done a great job here making sure we’ve been staffed very well,” Rockett said.
“We have enough athletic trainers and students to help us out, so the volume of injuries that we’ve had has actually been really well taken care of.”