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HomesingaporeHow do coaches tell if a young athlete is seriously ill or...

How do coaches tell if a young athlete is seriously ill or simply exhausted?

SINGAPORE: The death of a Singapore Sports school student has surfaced questions around protocols when junior athletes feel unwell, and whether it’s possible to distinguish between serious illness and plain tiredness.

Badminton student-athlete Pranav Madhaik’s coach was fired after an investigation found safety lapses.

The 14-year-old had told his coach that he was feeling unwell following a time trial in October. The coach told him to rest, then left the school without checking on the student.


Coaches CNA spoke to highlighted the steps they take when a young charge reports feeling unwell.

Swimming instructor Andy Ding said the standard operating procedure or SOP kicks in even before the start of any physical activity, with parents informing coaches if their children had been sick prior.

They will need to submit medical certificates or clearance for their children to participate in lessons.

Coaches also ask the students if any of them had fallen ill recently, and do a visual check for signs of weakness or tiredness, said Mr Ding, whose ADSwimClinic provides private lessons to those aged three to 13.

“If they tell us or show signs of exhaustion, we have to stop them and (allow them to rest) accordingly to let them recover first before assessing and allowing them to continue,” the 41-year-old added.

“We do not push them over the limit when we know that they are not able to take it. We have to gradually pace them and monitor them accordingly.”

Coaches will then inform the child’s parents. 

In group classes, administrative staff and parents are around to keep an eye on the children and attend to them.

“We need extra manpower to be on standby in case of any medical (emergencies) or accidents,” Mr Ding said. 

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