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Gel backboard pad aims to reduce pain

The pad is reusable and can be either heated or cooled


Photo Turley Backboard Pad Co.
The Turley Backboard Pad is totally reusable and can be cooled in any refrigerator, or warmed in a blanket warmer or IV fluid warmer.

Amy Turley got the idea for her innovative backboard pad 17 years ago, when she was in EMT school.

In one training exercise her classmates placed her on a backboard, strapped her arms down, and loaded her into the back of an ambulance for 40 minutes. She had been backboarded before in the classroom, but this time it was different. This time it hurt.

“I was in shock by how much I was hurting after just five minutes,” she said. After half an hour she was in agony, and she dealt with pain and soreness for three days after the drive.

Though it was years later until she developed the Turley Backboard Pad, Turley always knew in the back of her mind that many backboards could hurt patients. After working on a case in which a 62-year-old patient with an unstable C1-C2 fracture developed pressure sores, she decided to finally do something about it.

The product Turley developed is a visco-elastin gel pad similar to ones used by surgeons in operating rooms, and it was among the exhibits at Fire-Rescue Med in Las Vegas.

The pad can be either heated or cooled to any temperature you introduce it to, making it extremely useful for both trauma and cardiac cases. A cooled pad can be used to induce hypothermia in cardiac cases; a warmed pad, in addition to providing general patient comfort, can be used for warming a trauma patient and treating hypothermia.

The proprietary gel is effective because it mimics skin and fat. This is key, Turley said, because “that’s what patients need to protect their own skin, nerves, and blood vessels.”

The Turley Backboard Pad is totally reusable — you just wipe it down and sterilize it like any other piece of equipment — and the gel can be cooled in any refrigerator, or warmed in a blanket warmer or IV fluid warmer.

“Some responders go really old school and heat it on the dash on the way to a call,” Turley said.

After years of backboarding patients, as well as suffering through the pain of being backboarded herself, Turley is pleased to have created a product that will both treat patients and make them more comfortable.

“I know this is something that is going to help patients feel better,” she said. “That’s important, after all, because any day you have to call 911 is probably already not a very good day.”

The Turley Backboard Pad its on any backboard or immobilization device. For more information about the Turley Backboard Pad, please visit

Drew Johnson’s contributions to the FireRescue1 editorial lineup focuses on new fire products, services, and technologies. A native of Oklahoma, Drew has previously written for both print and online media outlets on a wide range of topics, including finance, education, real estate, and politics. Contact Drew at