ABC’s of Injury Assessment
Abdominal injuries in athletes can range in severity from abdominal strains to internal bleeding and can include outcomes as serious as organ failure and death (Barrett, C. and Smith, D., para. 1.; Recognition and Management of Abdominal Injuries at Athletic Events). The Taylor Haugen Foundation’s mission to research, protect and educate individuals on internal abdominal injuries sustained in contact sports, drives the force behind the whole organization. With limited research behind abdominal injuries, medical groups have the ABCDE approach to diagnosing abdominal injuries quickly and efficiently. This approach has been adapted by side line responders and sports officials within various levels of sport organizations.
The ABCDE approach to injury assessment:
• A: Airway
• B: Breathing
• C: Circulation/Color
• D: Disability
• E: Exposure/Environment
According to Wanda Lockwood with RN.org (2017), the assessment with all trauma patients should begin with the primary survey including the ABC’s (Airway, Breathing, and Circulation) being checked immediately.
The Neurological status, or Disability, should be assessed using the AVPU system; is the patient Alert? Is the patient Verbal? Is the patient only responding to only verbal stimuli? Is the patient Unresponsive?
Exposure and environment include the impacted area and the setting in which the injury has taken place.
Physical signs of internal bleeding include: abdominal pain, guarding rigidity, bruising or swelling, abdominal distention/deformity, or hypotension.
By better knowing and understanding the signs of internal abdominal injuries, these symptoms and signs can help better protect our student athletes.
Lockwood, W. Abdominal Trauma. (2015). RN.org. http://www.rn.org/courses/coursematerial-10000.pdf
Barrett, C. and Smith, D. Recognition and Management of Abdominal Injuries at Athletic Events. (2012). International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3414076/