Student Down!

Once at a rank test, I saw an adult student pass out. She was out cold before she hit the mat. And because she had collapsed from a standing position and was unable to catch herself, she hit hard. The good news: The mat cushioned the impact. The bad news: She still suffered a mild concussion.

This student had diabetes. Although she had eaten about three hours before the test, her anxiety and stress resulted in an adrenalin rush. This caused her blood sugar to drop. Consequently, she lost consciousness.


I watched the instructor team at the studio swing into a coordinated effort. One immediately approached the fallen student, rousing her back to consciousness. Two other instructors shepherded the remaining students to the edges of the mat so the area around the fallen student was clear. Those two then kept the students engaged in the test.

The instructor attending to the student who had fainted assisted her off the floor and into the studio's office, where she was immediately given food and water to level her blood sugar as quickly as possible.

The result of this coordinated effort was a positive experience for all the students. The student who had passed out benefited from one-on-one attention, which provided the care necessary to assess and stabilize her condition. The remaining students benefited from being able to focus on their test, which prevented panic.

As I watched the scene unfold, I wondered how many school owners in this country have prepared themselves and their teams for such an event. Have you thought about how your team would handle an emergency involving a student, such as fainting, breaking a limb or having a sudden medical incident? Do you and your staff know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke? Are you familiar with the different symptoms of a heart attack in women versus men? Do you drill and train on these potential emergencies on a regular basis?

These are the questions that a plaintiff's attorney will ask if, in fact, such an emergency occurs in your school.

There are several primary factors I encourage you to consider as you're thinking about this type of emergency happening in your studio. First, how will you move the other students if the injured or incapacitated person cannot be safely moved? In some circumstances, such as a potential back or neck injury, you do not want to move the student. You need to let paramedics to do that.

In the meantime, it's vital to move the other students away from the injured person and keep them busy and focused on the class instead of the injured person. What space is there for this in your studio? Is your best alternative to end the class and send the students home?

The age of the injured party is also relevant. You may need to create separate plans for your adult classes and children's classes. Imagine that you're teaching a beginner's class with kids ages 6-12. Imagine that a child is a diabetic, his blood sugar has just bottomed out and he passed out, hitting his head. Now, you have 20 kids on the mat completely distracted, swarming the passed-out kid. Suppose five parents are watching the class, but none of them is the downed student's parent.

How would you manage the situation? Do you have knowledge of the child's diabetes? Did you prepare an individual plan of training for this child? Do you have the child's doctor's written instructions on how to respond if this type of situation occurs?

To protect yourself, your instructors and your studio, it's vital to have those documents in the child's file. It's also important for you and your team to train on how you'll address the issue of keeping the remaining students calm, engaged and out of the fray. Your team will be best able to serve the child without the distractions of anxious children. The rest of the children will also have a much more positive experience and be less apt to feel anxiety over the incident when they see that your team has the situation authoritatively handled.

As always, the key is to imagine the emergency scenarios that could occur inside your studio and decide on proper courses of action. Then train your team and drill on the scenarios. These steps will protect you, your team, your students and your school.

To contact Beth A. Block, send an email tobeth@blockins.net or call (800) 225-0863.

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Black Belt Magazine is proud to announce the NEW Member Profiles feature for the Hall of Fame. At the time of this article, the online records account for every inductee from the inaugural year of 1968 all the way through 1990 (upwards of 200 martial artists). The page will be updated continuously and will include every inductee through 2020 in the near future. For now, you can enjoy images and facts about the legendary members for each induction they received before 1991. Take advantage of this never-before-seen opportunity to learn about many of the martial artists who contributed to the lifestyle, culture, and community that every martial artist experiences today.

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