What Is A Medical Director To Do In Open Water Races?

What Is A Medical Director To Do In Open Water Races?

In the open water swimming world, a key position to fill at every competition is the Medical Officer.

This position is called various names like Medical Director or Medical Delegate, but it usually is filled with an experienced medical professional including physicians, nurses, or EMT‘s.

While each sanctioning body, association, series, local governmental authority, and event has its own rules and expectations, the Medical Officer in general has these following major roles:

1. Plan and confirm contingency and emergency plans, policies, personnel, and procedures together with the Race Director, Safety Director, race organization staff, and safety personnel prior to race day. This may include the positioning and placement (or addition) of safety personnel, pontoons, safety boats, and evacuation areas, emergency transportation (both on the water and land) depending on the conditions on race day.

2. Oversee (or co-oversee in many cases) the safety personnel and volunteers (e.g., lifeguards, kayakers, escort boaters, paddlers, EMT’s, paramedics) in terms of medical emergencies or weather/water contingencies that can include swimmer, staff, or volunteers’ accidents, injuries, hypothermia, hyperthermia, cardiac arrest, etc. on race day.

3. Confirm a safe venue and safe conditions exist on race day, especially related to water temperature, water conditions, water quality, marine life, pollution, currents, and other elements that may increase the inherent risk of holding an event. Serve as liaison with the Race Director, Safety Director, race organization staff, and safety personnel on race day if questionable conditions exist or occur during the event.

4. Provide medical assistance when necessary to participants (including swimmers, volunteers, staff, safety personnel, and spectators), and document incidents when occur.

5. Offer post-race advice and feedback on how to improve safety planning, protocols, procedures, and policies including drafting/editing of written reports.

6. Confirm that verbal communication equipment on race day enables proper and prompt communications in case of emergencies or contingencies.

In addition, the Medical Officer can have the following responsibilities dependent upon event or local governing body:

5. serve as liaison with the sanctioning or governing body.
6. oversight on a local, post-race anti-doping program.

Photo shows Dr. Jim Miller of the FINA Sports Medical Committee who gives the safety lecture below:

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