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The Effect of Laryngoscope Handle Size on Possible Endotracheal Intubation Success in University Football, Ice Hockey, and Soccer Players

Delaney, J. Scott MD*,†; Al-Kashmiri, Ammar MD; Baylis, Penny-Jane MBBS; Aljufaili, Mahmood MD§; Correa, José A. PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: July 2012 - Volume 22 - Issue 4 - p 341–348
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e318257c9a8
Original Research

Objective: To assess the effectiveness of a standard long-handle laryngoscope and a short-handle laryngoscope on ease of possible intubation in football, ice hockey, and soccer players.

Design: Prospective crossover study.

Setting: University Sport Medicine Clinic.

Participants: Sixty-two university varsity football (62 males), 45 ice hockey (26 males and 19 females), and 39 soccer players (20 males, 19 females).

Interventions: Athletes were assessed for different airway and physical characteristics. Three different physicians then assessed the use of laryngoscopes of different handle sizes in supine athletes who were wearing protective equipment while in-line cervical spine immobilization was maintained.

Main Outcome Measures: The ease of passage of a laryngoscope blade into the posterior oropharynx of a supine athlete was assessed using both a standard long-handle and a short-handle laryngoscope.

Results: Use of a short-handle laryngoscope was easier for all physicians in all sports as compared with a standard-sized laryngoscope. Passage of a laryngoscope blade into the posterior oropharynx of a supine athlete was easiest in soccer players and most difficult in football and ice hockey players for both sizes of laryngoscope. Interference from chest or shoulder pads was a common cause for difficulty in passing the laryngoscope blade into the posterior oropharynx for football and ice hockey players.

Conclusions: In the rare instances that an endotracheal intubation is to be attempted on an unconscious athlete, a short-handle laryngoscope may provide the best chance for successful intubation.

*Department of Emergency Medicine, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Division of Sport Medicine, McGill Sport Medicine Clinic, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Department of Accident and Emergency, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Oman

§Accident and Emergency Department, Royal Hospital, Muscat, Oman

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Corresponding Author: J. Scott Delaney, MD, McGill Sport Medicine Clinic, 475 Pine Ave West, Montreal, QC H2W 1S4, Canada (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received September 30, 2011

Accepted March 28, 2012

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.