Liberty firefighters stocked with tools to free football players from gear during serious injuries

LIBERTY, Mo. -- When a football player gets hurt and it looks like it's serious, medics suddenly face a big challenge: How do you get a helmet and pads off a patient without hurting them even more?

This year, medics and team trainers in Liberty have a new bag of tools designed just for that challenge.

It might not look like much, but trainers said the tools included in the kit can make all the difference in a football player is injured in a game.

"It's a rather delicate process," said Jared Hanson, Liberty North's athletic trainer.

The gear each player wears is designed to protect during every hit, tackle and run. But trainers say that same equipment, like the helmet and facemask -- even shoulder pads, can get in the way in an emergency.

"The biggest thing we want to do is provide a safe environment to those athletes," Hanson said. "Our number one goal is getting them to the emergency department as safely and quickly as possible in the event of an injury."

This week, experts in the sports medicine department at Liberty Hospital trained the firefighters who will be standing by on the sideline during every football game.

"So that we could safely remove equipment from a football player," Liberty Fire Chief Mike Snider said.

The hospital donated helmet removal tool kits to the fire department. The kits will not be available in each of the city's ambulances. They contain power screwdrivers and other tools that can be used to quickly remove safety gear.

"In the even that you approach an athlete that's unresponsive or not breathing, the number one priority is access to the airway (so) CPR, rescue breathing can be preformed," Hanson said.

That might be easier said than done. About 80 percent of football players in the Liberty School District wear the same type of helmet. But there are several other brands, too, and each one is a little different.

"The best thing for the medical staff is to be trained to understand all the different types of helmets and gain access to those athletes," Hanson said.

Liberty is one of the first cities to have the kits, but they'll likely start showing up in other communities soon. The National Athletic Trainers Association is pushing to get the kits on the sidelines for every high school and college football game.