The Super Bowl is headed to New Jersey this year, creating a challenge for local health care providers.
Hackensack University Medical Center, one of three area hospitals chosen as health service providers for the game, plans to be ready at MetLife Stadium as it operates one of its mobile satellite emergency department units, or what they call NJ-MSED units.
The units, funded by the medical center and state and federal sources, include two seven-bed emergency departments housed in 43-foot semitrucks. "They're fully equipped as an emergency department," says Joseph Feldman, M.D., chairman of emergency services at Hackensack UMC. "If you were in them you would never ever know you were in a truck," Feldman said.
Features of the ED version of the vehicles include seven critical care beds, monitor defibrillator capability, a portable digital X-ray unit, telemedicine capability, a portable field laboratory, a small pharmaceutical cache; overhead medical procedure lighting and onboard medical gases, according to officials at Hackensack UMC. A third vehicle in the setup acts as a mobile operating room.
"I think this is a very unique system," Feldman says.
After the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon last year, it's reassuring to know that such high levels of capability will be at another iconic American sporting event.
I had the opposite feeling when researching a story about a study of injuries incurred at an obstacle course event taking place in Pennsylvania last year. Despite a large crowd of 22,000 participants and spectators attending the Tough Mudder-branded event — which promotes its potential to punish participants — an emergency room physician at a nearby hospital essentially learned of it when injured participants started trickling in. The physician found that lack of information to be alarming and I do, too.
I'm not suggesting there be a ban or restriction on Tough Mudders or similar events; if the Tough Mudder didn't have electric shocks, I'd take a look at participating in the local version.
But it might be worth considering a national minimum standard for such large events in terms of what kind of medical care should be provided on-site. Large crowds produce injuries, and potentially serious ones.
The Super Bowl organizers have the resources and incentive to ensure that emergency preparedness is at a high level, but not every event organizer is in that position.
Let's figure out a way to let Tough Mudders and their ilk give weekend warriors the challenges they seek — along with the sprained ankles, electrical burns and concussions that result — but also be required to be ready to treat the serious injuries that result.