1492879432700 - ‘Weekend warriors’ told to stop clogging emergency departments with minor injuries

‘Weekend warriors’ told to stop clogging emergency departments with minor injuries

Janine Jordaan knows her fair share of playing through injury.

The former netball player has undergone three ankle reconstructions in three years since 2013, even playing through serious injury during her final games in 2015.

“I was determined not to lose knowing it was my last game of netball,” she said.

“I have plastic ankles now.”

* Five Kiwi moments of playing on while injured
* Emergency department presentations drop in Marlborough
* Minor injuries and illnesses turned away from Blenheim emergency department
* Wairau Hospital emergency department in Marlborough clogged

Jordaan from Marlborough, is one if thousands of sports nuts who turn out every week to club matches up and down the country.

But now some district health boards (DHBs) are putting “weekend warriors” on notice.

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The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board says minor sports injuries are making it harder to treat patients in actual emergencies, and athletes need to reconsider whether their injury is urgent.

And other DHBs had similar recommendations for non-urgent sports patients.

Waikato Hospital emergency department clinical director Dr John Bonning said patients with minor sports injuries were redirected to local care clinics or had a very long wait ahead of them.

“Our ED is simply too busy to see these,” he said.

Midcentral District Health Board hospital services operations director Lyn Horgan added that serious patients were prioritised.

“We encourage people to keep the emergency department for emergencies only,” she said.

Kiwi sports players are brought up learning the legendary stories of Wayne Shelford and Colin Meads, playing on with broken arms – and worse.

But it is not broken arms, shattered ankles or even torn scrotum which are clogging up the emergency department (ED), but strains and sprains.

Waitohi Rugby Football Club president Rob Beattie, of Picton, said managerial staff had a duty of care for players.

“You have to be careful with how bad it is. Where do you draw the line?” he said.

“If it’s swollen, how do you know whether it’s broken.

“This is why they are doctors and nurses, to determine that.”

Wellington’s Wests Rugby chairman Tony Walsh said under-sourced EDs were an issue faced in Wellington, with one player waiting six hours for eyebrow stitches last week.

The community rugby club represented suburbs west of Wellington, and Walsh said he understood why some people were quick to have their injuries examined.

“Players are more injury-conscious these days. When you’re talking about concussions there has been a shift in mindset for the long-term impact of injuries,” he said.

“I wouldn’t describe it as players going soft, it is the awareness of the long-lasting impact these injuries can have.”

Jordaan, the Marlborough Netball Centre manager, had since ended her playing career and said she had noticed a shift in how players approached injury.

“Players go to the emergency department as a precaution, a lot of the times it’s because of a scare,” she said.

While such dedication in sport may still occur, Wairau Hospital in Blenheim requested winter sports players rethink their recovery.

The hospital had nearly twice the ED patients of the national average per capita this time last year, and had launched a campaign to lower that number.

Emergency medicine specialist Andrew Morgan said the message was getting across but athletes were prime offenders in heading straight to ED when hurt.

“Quite often people arrive at ED having clearly come straight off the playing field. They are still in uniform, muddy and haven’t taken the basic first aid steps,” he said.

While after hours medical clinics remained an option, some sporting clubs were concerned the request for players to determine the severity of injuries could lead to incorrect self-diagnosis.

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