Boston Marathon Brings Attention to Medical Aid Stations at Sporting Events


The tragic bombing at this year’s Boston Marathon has led to many discussions about safety and security at large public sporting events.  Something heard often in early reports from Boston was that victims were being treated at the finish line “medical tent” or “aid station” designed to support runners. But what’s under that medical tent?

The finish area medical aid station at most marathons is certainly more than a group of volunteers with ice and band aids.  It’s a coordinated effort by the race director, the health care provider, paramedics, and fire and police departments.  As with any part of a large event, planning and communication are keys to success.

Access points to medical services and ambulance evacuation routes are determined in advance and all event-day communication is coordinated through a system linking the multiple agencies involved.  Triage protocols are designed to deliver appropriate care to patients on site while also allowing for quick decision making when patients require transport to the hospital.

Baylor Health Care System provides medical coverage for multiple marathons across Dallas/Ft. Worth, including serving as the official health care provider of the Dallas Marathon (formerly White Rock Marathon) for more than 15 years.

Exact medical staffing for a marathon depends on many factors including the course, number of participants and weather, but medical personnel on-hand typically represent multiple areas of expertise.

As an example, the Baylor medical team for the Dallas Marathon includes: multiple physicians, 30-40 nurses, 25+ athletic trainers, and a number of therapists, techs and medical students.

This is in addition to the paramedics and ambulances provided by Dallas Fire and Rescue. Many on the Baylor team come from Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas‘ Level 1 Trauma Center and are experienced in handling emergency trauma situations.

I’m sure the medical tent at the Boston Marathon was staffed with incredibly experienced, well trained and skilled trauma teams. Medical staff like that are exactly the type of people you want on-site when a tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing occurs. They can go from treating minor injuries and complications like blisters and dehydration to serious traumatic injuries like the ones incurred by the more than 170 people injured at the Boston Marathon.

Certainly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to medical needs at a large sporting event. Race organizers try to limit the risk of injuries and avoid tragedies like the one in Boston. You can expect to see security procedures increase at races across the country after this incident.

When participating or attending an event, try to avoid any extra hassle by finding out in advance what those security requirements are.

Also remember to inquire about the medical coverage plan for the event. If it’s done right, you should feel confident knowing there’s a lot more than a band aid under that tent.

About the author

Chad Canterbury
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Chad is the Director of Baylor SportsCare and has worked in sports medicine outreach since 1996. A graduate of LSU, he's a big Tiger fan and enjoys staying active with his wife Heather and two year old daughter, Peyton.

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Boston Marathon Brings Attention to Medical Aid Stations at Sporting Events