As the high school and college football seasons approach, Wheaton Fire Department personnel again must be ready to treat and care for spinal injuries.
A refresher course this week at Wheaton College is designed to help them do just that.
The college's head athletic trainer, Greg Evans, ran much of the city's emergency personnel through a short demonstration Thursday to teach them proper technique when dealing with injured athletes wearing cumbersome football equipment and to open lines of communication.
"We never want to have a conversation of who does what when we are standing over an athlete," Evans said. "I'd rather have this conversation right now and we figure out where the best (stadium) entrances are and the best exits are so when the emergency situation exists, we just know exactly where we need to go and what we need to do."
Evans, who will start his 13th season next month as the Crusaders head athletic trainer, first led the crew through a session that covered introductions to his staff and the variety of helmets emergency personnel might confront when dealing with an injured football player.
After the hourlong class, it was time to take the field.
Evans walked the crews out to McCully Stadium, where firefighter Willie Cox suited up and played the role of an injured football player.
The demonstration showed the emergency personnel how to properly roll a player on his back from a facedown position without causing further injury.
Cox said the experience portraying an injury victim also gave him a new perspective.
"There being a lot of hands around me kind of gave an idea of what is going through the patient's head," he said. "Just being down there ... it's tough because you don't recognize a lot of the faces."
During the course of the three-day program that ended Thursday, 27 firefighters and 18 paramedics went through the training. That constitutes about 90 percent of all fire department personnel, Lt. Steve Lambe said.
Wheaton emergency crews stand by at home games at Wheaton College, as well as St. Francis, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South high schools.
As high school and college football players have gotten bigger and faster, Lambe said severe injuries have become more common.
"The kids are getting bigger, more muscular," he said. "You've got kids playing high school football that look like they should be in their fourth year of college. So there are going to be more injuries: more concussions, spinal injuries, all of that stuff. They are hitting harder, hitting faster. It's making our job more difficult."