While winning the national championship in January, the University of Alabama (UA) football team had extra support on its sideline: a collapsible medical tent that limits distractions and offers privacy.
“That first 10 minutes of an evaluation of an injury is critical, and that’s usually done on the sideline,” says Jeff Allen, UA director of sports medicine. “The tent provides an environment free from distractions so that we can improve the level of medical care.”
The product of a collaboration between Crimson Tide Athletics and UA’s College of Engineering, the tent helps to avoid having injuries evaluated in view of fans, media and opposing teams, says Dr. E. Lyle Cain Jr., UA team physician with Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“Oftentimes the media will report an injury before we have had the chance to notify the family or come up with a treatment plan, so it is a big advantage to examine an athlete in a more private setting,” he says.
The design goals were to create a portable working space with a small footprint that could be deployed quickly by a single person, says Patrick Powell, one of four engineering students who helped to design and fabricate the tent. When not in use, the tent is collapsed and doesn’t block the view of fans. When deployed it quickly expands over an examination table, which anchors the tent.
“This design allows the tent to fan out from a small footprint into a structure twice as long and fully enclosed,” he says.