Quick response time crucial in treating Ware injury

Ralph Reiff

Many people are praising the quick response to Sunday's emergency at Lucas Oil Stadium. Medics had University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware off the basketball court and headed to the hospital in less than ten minutes after a horrific injury that left part of his bone exposed.

The man making the calls was Ralph Reiff, an athletic trainer in charge of medical and team services. In an interview Friday, he explained how he oversees everything - the operations, what's happening on the benches and around the stadium. An athletic trainer for St. Vincent Sports Performance, Reiff's volunteer position means being ready for emergencies.

Ralph Reiff was courtside during Sunday night's game as Louisville's Kevin Ware broke his leg, falling to the floor in agony.

"I was watching something else and the crowd became quiet. It was noticeable," he said.

He then saw Louisville's athletic trainer give the hand signal indicating an emergency. Doctors, medics and Reiff rushed to Ware's side

"This type of injury does not come with basketball. It's pretty unique," explained Reiff.

In his 33 years working basketball tournaments, it was one of the worst injuries Reiff's seen - and one that stunned players and fans.

"It left an impression as I looked around folks close to the bench. It was traumatic. There were a lot forlorn faces and emotions," said Reiff.

Many players on both teams were crying and upset. Some were physically ill. Fans were stunned and aghast.

But Reiff and the others had a job to do - quickly tending to Ware, loading him on a gurney and wheeling him out of the stadium to a waiting ambulance, all in less than ten minutes.

"Our planning helped in having a good process," said Reiff.

In fact, Reiff says the medical personnel and team trainers rehearsed several times over the course of the tournament.

"When the arena was quiet like this we would be out there with the gurney, with the medics and everyone going through the top scenarios. 'If this happens where do we go?'" he explained.

After Reiff got Ware loaded in the ambulance, he was back in the arena and back on the job.

"You know as you hand him off he's in very good care," he said. "I'm glad we got him to a more comfortable place as quickly as we could."