The BSTF strive to deliver unparalleled standards in all aspects of tournament management, including in our operating procedures for the health and safety of participants. Like any contact sport, taekwondo presents a risk of injury which must be managed. Our policies have been designed to meet the specific needs of taekwondo competition, iterated across three decades of BSTF tournament delivery, and developed in consultation with emergency physicians and specialist sport medical providers.
Research suggests taekwondo holds no greater average risk of injury than other popular sports [1,2], that the most common injury type is haematoma and that injuries occur predominantly to the lower limb . Total competition annual-injury-exposure risk is very low as total match time is substantially shorter than that of most team sport competition in length and lower in frequency. Nevertheless, weight segmented combat sports like taekwondo present specific risks, including potentially harmful weight making practices and that head contact is an objective itself within competition rules, requiring specific precautions.
A tournament’s health and safety protocols and the fidelity of their implementation are critical to risk management. Inadequate provision of trained medical staff and equipment endangers athletes’ well-being and, in extreme cases, their lives. Sports managers and club captains should be aware that the policies and provision of third party tournament organisers in the UK (including, but not limited to individuals and small associations) vary significantly. The protocols described here cannot be taken for granted outside of BSTF events, hence we recommend that university sport officers and club captains implement, as part of your routine entry process, a stage to confirm an event’s protocols satisfy your institution’s requirements. A checklist of essential provisions is included in the last section here for reference.
BSTF Tournament Insurance
Events open to all university clubs to attend require special attention regarding insurance. University club members may hold a third party insurance policy with one of a variety of different providers, however, member to member policies from a particular third party organisations may or may not be valid at open events where other participants hold different policies. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to rely on students to have obtained individual insurance policies, because:
- the various participants’ insurance may not all be equivalent or sufficient for all activities
- their policies may have expired between entry being submitted and their attending the event
- and in the worse case a forged submission would put all participants at risk
Hence, BSTF events are independently insured under our own bespoke martial arts activities policy, ensuring coverage of all participants at our events.
BSTF Tournament Medical Provision
Provisions for the safety of participants are paramount to the organisation of combat sport and martial art competition.
An example of typical coverage at a BSTF tournament [31st annual Student National Taekwondo Championships, operating 6 active courts, 2017 figures listed] included: two medical staff (FPoSi and Paramedic / Advanced Emergency Aid and Trauma Management in Sport qualified), supported by eight first aiders (Emergency First Aiders in Sport qualified) courtside, with a dedicated treatment area and trauma equipment available.
Our summary policy requirements are listed in more detail in the next section, including requirements for: rules and regulations; risk assessments; referee selection; medical and first aid staffing; head injury assessment protocols; medical equipment; tournament safety equipment; weight divisions; and athlete experience level divisions.
Management and treatment of concussion in combat sports should, and must, be more stringent than for non-combat sports counterparts. The BSTF has pioneered a sector leading head injury assessment protocol for the safety of student athletes. This protocol is complimented by robust mechanisms which allow us to track student athletes between matches and match days in case they have received an assessment for concussion or require a follow-up assessment.
The BSTF also deliver athlete and coach development courses to raise standards in other aspects of athlete health and safety including: strength and conditioning training; nutrition and weight management; the dangers associated with weight cutting and dehydration; anti-doping and testing; and other topics.
Taekwondo Tournament Health and Safety Provision Checklist
Outside of the BSTF Student National Taekwondo Championships Series there exist a variety of third party taekwondo events large and small which a university club’s members might also attend during the year. If your club plans to attend any taekwondo competition we recommend that sport department staff and club captains always discuss whether the following checklist of provisions are in place, indicative of responsible health and safety policy by a local organiser.
All of the provisions described in the following checklist are in place at BSTF Student National Taekwondo Championships Series tournaments:
- That an event risk assessment is available on request and that it is strictly applied at the event.
- That competition rules and regulations are published in advance, are readily available and comprehensive.
- That all participants are insured with a bespoke martial arts event policy for any tournament open to all university clubs, and that the policy details are available on request.
- That the total number of medical and first aid support staff is determined in proportion to the number of concurrent matches taking place. Our medical staffing formula is determined in consultation with experienced medical professionals in this sector.
- That qualified and equipped medics are present, leading their team throughout the event at courtside.
- We require such sparring competitions have as standard an Emergency Medicine Practitioner / Paramedic / FPoSi / Advanced Emergency Aid and Trauma Management in Sport qualified medic available for every six courts.
- That qualified and equipped first-aiders supporting the lead medical staff are present throughout the event at courtside.
- We require as standard one first-aider per court along with and in support of the event medic(s).
- Also note it may never be considered sufficient to rely on attending umpires or a venue’s general staff (with or without first aid qualifications) to provide first aid support to a taekwondo sparring competition; all first-aiders must be engaged solely in that role throughout the event.
- That the necessary equipment for trauma treatment is available in case ever required, at that this include: O2, Entonox, airway management kit, automated external defibrillator, spinal board and full set of emergency drugs.
- That a dedicated treatment area is available courtside for medics and first-aiders.
- That a head injury assessment protocol is in place, where medical staff hold the independent authority to withdraw athletes, and that processes are in place to issue and withdraw athlete accreditation and to track athletes between matches and match days for reassessment.
- That jigsaw matting is utilised for all competition areas to reduce the risk of injury from falls and that the total area per court be no smaller than 8×8 m.
- That no ungraded (“10th kup”) students are permitted to take part in sparring disciplines.
- That suitable weight and grade (experience) divisions are in place.
- That competitions are run according to the rules of an established international federation to ensure that scoring, penalties, and mandatory safety equipment requirements are applied consistently.
- That only trained officials referee matches.
- That competition areas and spectator areas are separated, and that entry and exit between these areas is strictly managed.
- That athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers receive an accreditation (ID card) on registration which determines access to competition areas.
- That processes are in place to check athlete and coach accreditation, both on entry to a competition area and prior to the start of a match.
- That sports department and club captains must nominate their head coach and secondary coaches during the entry process, and that only those accredited individuals may coach athletes at the event.
- We also recommend that coaches attend the Strength and Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes course which includes training on anti-doping and random testing, nutrition and weight management, and the health risks associated with rapid weight loss and dehydration.
 Boxing, Wrestling, and Martial Arts Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments in the United States, 2002-2005, J Sports Sci Med. 2007 Oct; 6(CSSI-2): 58–61.  Australian sports injury hospitalisations 2011-12 (full publication; 21 oct 2014 edition) (AIHW).  Lystad, Reidar. (2015). Epidemiology of injuries in full-contact combat sports. Australasian Epidemiologist. 22. 14-18.