Games bring injuries, but nothing peninsula agencies can’t handle

Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Despite a large influx of athletes arriving from all over the arctic world to engage in strenuous sports for six days, local emergency responders could exhale a sigh of relief at the end of the Arctic Winter Games.

Central Emergency Services personnel responded to 12 incidents requiring ambulance transport and close to 500 contacts over the six-day event, including everything from providing Band-Aids to taking a hockey player with a broken collar bone to the hospital.

“That was probably the worst thing,” said CES Fire Chief Chris Mokracek.

Most of the incidents CES had to respond to were minor, and resources were not strained by the event, he said.

Most of injuries during the Games were due to the indoor soccer event, Mokracek said.

“It’s a fast pace ... so that’s where we had the most sprains and strains,” he said.

Another event that triggered a number of calls at the beginning of the Games was eating.

Some of the athletes who traveled from places with little access to some of the foods most Americans take for granted, including members of Team Nunavut and Team Greenland, paid with stomach cramps and nausea after feasting on local cuisine.

“Some of them overindulged, and it was too much of a good thing,” Mokracek said. “That rectified itself after the first few days.”

Emergency responders generally anticipated which events would be most likely to lead to injuries, but the Dene games, an event responders expected to lead to few if any injuries, required more attention than expected.

“We didn’t expect the number of injuries we would get out of that,” he said. “We underestimated the potential there.”

The Pole Push, a Dene game that pits teams of four players against each other as they push on opposite sides of a pole to force the other team outside of a marked ring on the ground, strained muscles and bruised athletes participating in the event.

“We did get a few calls for that event,” said James Baisden, assistant chief for the Kenai Fire Department.

Baisden said although none of the injuries were major, at one point they did have two ambulances at the Dene games at once.

Kenai also responded to a number of calls for speed skating.

“Those were the two events that we had the most calls from,” Baisden said.

The Kenai Fire Department made a total of seven Games-related responses over the course of the week, but although there were a couple of spikes in the number of calls, the department was not overtaxed, he said.

“Overall, we were busier, but everything went smooth,” he said.

Games-related emergency calls were for primarily minor injuries and illnesses, and of all of the calls, none reported broken bones or similarly major injuries, he said.

The Games also provided the department’s personnel the chance to learn hazardous materials handling from U.S. Army personnel who came down to assist with the Games, Baisden said.

Five Army and four U.S. Air Force personnel came to the area to assist with airport operations and security, easing the burden on local responders.

“They did provide some pretty good assets for us,” he said.

Local law enforcement officers also enjoyed a generally peaceful six-day event, said Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp.

“I was amazed by the behavior of the vast majority of the athletes,” he said.

Kopp said Kenai police did not make any formal charges related to the Games and that busiest days may have been the days leading up to the event.

“By the middle of the week, everything just went like clockwork,” he said.

The Kenai police responded to about three or four Games-related calls a day, most of which were for minor complaints such as petty thefts or noise complaints.

“With about an additional 5,000 people in town (the crime rate) was amazingly low,” Kopp said.

The most serious call Kenai police received came when an argument between an athlete and a coach escalated into an incident of assaultive conduct, he said.

However, the parties in-volved resolved the issue and no one was formally charged, he said.

“The student involved was appropriately apologetic,” Kopp said.

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