Practice, but not policy for ambulances at high school football games

Fox Carolina is investigating what safety protocols are required at high school football games in South Carolina...
Published: Oct. 26, 2023 at 10:34 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - In the fall, thousands of students face off each week during the high school football season, but a FOX Carolina investigation uncovered that some districts are better equipped to handle medical emergencies than others.

FOX Carolina reached out to all school districts in the Upstate. Of the districts who responded, none of them have a policy requiring an ambulance to be at every football game. Twelve districts said it was their “practice” to have an ambulance with an emergency medical technician.

In Greenville County, the school district said they have an ambulance “whenever possible” but that a shortage of EMS providers, along with increased costs, have made doing so more difficult.

We asked the High School League, which governs high school sports in South Carolina, if they would ever require schools to have an ambulance at all games.

They responded saying, “It would be difficult to force a member school to have an ambulance on site if one is not available.”

The League also noted that it may be even more difficult in communities that have a smaller fleet of ambulances.

“The athletic trainer is by far the most important,” said Dr. Andrea Pitts, a sports physician with AnMed and the Anderson University Athletics team doctor. “The ambulance is another huge deal … There are times when you just need it. You just do it and the hard part is you don’t know. So the hard part is you may go to 10 out of 11 games of a football season and never need an ambulance, but the one time you do, you better have one.”

One mother we spoke with, Bonnie Martin, knows firsthand the importance of having qualified personnel at sporting events. Her son attends Crescent High School in Iva, which is part of Anderson District 3.

In the first game of the year, her son was hit hard while on the field.

“I thought ‘oh no, that’s my baby,’” said Martin. “I ran out on the field…they [said] he landed on his head and they were just going to take precautions and take him to the hospital just in case something was hurting.”

Anderson District 3 says they keep an ambulance at all games, along with an athletic trainer. District officials tell us they want to be as prepared as possible.

Martin says she didn’t know that there was no requirement for other districts to take the same safeguards. While her son is okay today, she said she worries about what could happen at an away game.

“EMS needs to be at all football games,” Martin said. “I’m still on edge.”

Below are statements or information from every Upstate school district who responded to our request for information about safety protocols:


Greenville County Schools directs its high schools to have an ambulance or EMT present when possible. We do not have a policy that absolutely requires it. Why? Because it has become increasingly difficult to get ambulances and EMTs at games due to both a shortage of providers and the increased expense. Some rural areas may not have that access and some urban areas like Greenville may have too many calls to post ambulances up at multiple games across the county. It is considered a “best practice” or preferred to have some medical assistance like an ambulance or EMT present for varsity football games. Most of our games have additional help on the sideline in the form of team doctors or other medical personnel through Prisma to assist our amazing Athletic Trainers. At some of our high schools, fire departments that have an EMT on staff attend the games.


There is no official board policy WRT ambulance / EMT services, but we do have an agreement with Greenwood County EMS to provide EMS services for our football games.


While there is no policy, we do have practice of having ambulance coverage at all varsity football events in the county. This is arranged through our athletic directors at each high school. Some use EMS, and some use private services. We also have certified athletic trainers on the sideline with our teams.


Anderson One does NOT have a policy in our Athletic Policy manual that requires high schools to have an ambulance at home varsity games; HOWEVER, it is our practice to do it at all three high schools, and we think it is a good practice. Schools have to pay for the service, but when it is needed, it is extremely helpful to have EMT personnel on site. We also have certified athletic trainers at all football games.


Yes, all Anderson Two high school football games have an ambulance staffed with EMT personnel. We also have an athletic trainer on the sideline for every game


We have EMTs, first responders, and other medical personnel at all of our high school football games.


We work with Laurens County EMS to provide 2 EMTs at all of our home varsity football games. In addition, we are staffed with a certified athletic trainer and also partner with Palmetto Bone and Joint which provides a team doctor on the sidelines for all of our games.


The high school league mandates that everyone have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Within this plan the ambulatory services are covered. We can get you a copy of this plan if you need it.


EMTs and two athletic trainers


Cowpens fire, EMS, Spartanburg Regional ambulance, another standby group


Both of our high schools, Abbeville High and Dixie High have an ambulance present at Varsity and JV games, as well as any C-team football games.


Our district does not have a policy, but it is our practice to have an ambulance at every home varsity football game.