In the increasingly litigious society that we now live in there are grave concerns over the level of medical support and resources that a Club needs to have whenever it conducts any training or match activity.

This concern is reflected in the number of enquiries The Football Association Medical Department is receiving on the scale of pitch-side support and the suggested minimum contents of a medical bag.

For more information about the FA Emergency Aid Course please click here

The ‘Routine’ Pitch-Side Medical Bag

Whatever the type of medical bag carried, it is incumbent on the ‘first-aider’ to be clinically competent in the use of its contents; the contents will to a large degree reflect the level of medical skill of its ‘owner.’ Clearly, the ‘first-aider’ should not carry any items of medical equipment or supplies that he/she is untrained to use or dispense.  With experience one finds that the number of items carried in the bag inevitably increases, as does the size of the bag.  Personal and player preferences may also influence which items are carried.

Due to the inherent dangers of blood-borne diseases it is now incumbent on any ‘first-aider’ to protect him/herself from any blood with which he/she may come in contact.  Several pairs of disposable nitrile (non-allergenic) gloves are a ‘must-carry’ item for any responsible ‘first-aider.’  One may also wish to consider protective eyewear to avoid personal infection from blood spatter.  ‘Sterile’ gauze dressings should be carried if you are to successfully arrest superficial bleeding; adhesive plasters are a necessary adjunct for the minor cuts and abrasions.

Additional items which it would be useful to carry in the ‘on-field’ bag are sterile non-adherent wound-dressings, triangular bandages, eye pads, antiseptic lotion and wipes.  The use of ‘smelling salts’ is not recommended when managing the injured player, particularly where head or neck trauma has been sustained.

On the use of ‘cold sprays’ – these should not be used until a competent clinical evaluation of the injury (SALTAPS – on field injury assessment procedure, covered on Basic First Aid for Sport & Treatment of Injury courses) has been performed to determine a player’s suitability to return to activity.  Sprays must not be used as a masking agent in an attempt to alleviate a player’s symptoms when significant injury has been sustained e.g. muscle contusion, ligament sprain, and muscle strain.  Furthermore, cold sprays should not be used as a medium to sanction a player’s return to activity when the clinical examination indicates otherwise.  Be aware that inappropriate and overzealous application of the spray has been known to result in a superficial skin ‘burn.’  If cold therapy is considered appropriate, a safer, more economical and practical alternative might be to use iced-water from a spray bottle.

Scissors are essential for cutting and removing tapes and bandage; they may also be required to cut through the clothing of an injured player to expose the injured body part when conducting the initial assessment.  The scissors should be of the ‘safety’ type, blunt tipped with brightly-coloured handles for ease of identification should they be dropped and remain on the playing surface.

Two useful tips are ‘never let anyone tamper with your medical bag,’ and ‘always place the same items in the same location within your bag.’  It is vitally important that the items you require are at hand when they are most needed.

A further practical tip is to keep a list of the nearest local Accident and Emergency Units, hospitals and medical facilities posted within the vicinity of the training ground or match pitch (or on a card within the bag); the proximity of these facilities may ultimately govern the initial management of a casualty.

In conclusion, it is imperative that the trained first-aider is equipped both practically and logistically to manage whatever medical situation may present itself.  Pragmatically, there are no hard and fast rules about the contents of the medical bag, but the items listed below should be considered as desirable basic contents which will allow the first-aider to deal with the more common medical presentations.

Contents of a 'Routine' Medical Bag

ZINC OXIDE TAPE (inelastic) (various sizes)
PLASTERS (non-allergenic/waterproof)
SPRAY BOTTLE (for iced water)
SCISSORS (safety type)

Guidance taken from: FA Medical and Exercise Science Department.

FA Concussion Guidelines

In November 2015, the FA released it's own Concussion Guidelines. The guidance, which is designed to support those managing head injuries in football at all levels, is available as a free-to-download document which you can access at the bottom of this page.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: This article is for general information only and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or treatment.  Whilst anyone in the vicinity is considered to be a potential first-aider medical care should be delivered by a qualified healthcare professional.

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