Sep 6, 2023
Cardiac arrest cases show importance of on-site athletic trainers

A recent string of on-field cardiac arrests has not only caught the attention of the public but also athletic trainers.

A teenage soccer player recently suffered cardiac arrest following a game in Goose Creek, South Carolina, highlighted in a story from the Medical University of South Carolina.

cardiacSudden cardiac arrest strikes more than 356,000 Americans who weren’t previously in the hospital, every year. About 90% of them die, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

Below is an excerpt from the Medical University of South Carolina on the increased importance of having on-site athletic trainers.

The dangerous condition has been in the news recently for causing both Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin and University of Southern California basketball player Bronny James to collapse. Hamlin went down after being hit in the chest with a helmet. James passed out during practice and was diagnosed with a heart defect. Both have recovered.

Alec DeCastro, M.D., a sports and family medicine doctor at MUSC Health, described what can happen in sudden cardiac arrest. “There sometimes might be initial signs like chest pain, shortness of breath or lightheadedness, but many times it happens with no warning. Because the athlete’s heart suddenly stops, they will become unresponsive, with no normal breathing and no signs of circulation. If lifesaving treatment is not given rapidly, this can progress to sudden death.”

So every moment counts, he said. “I think it’s critical to have highly trained sports medicine professionals, such as athletic trainers, not only because they are trained in CPR but also they are trained to be aware of this condition, and act quickly. The minutes that the athlete gets treatment before the ambulance arrives or the athlete gets to the hospital could mean the difference between life or death.”

That fragility is part of the reason that MUSC Health has a team of athletic trainers stationed at schools and with professional and semi-pro teams. They’re at Charleston, Berkeley and Orangeburg county high schools; the Charleston Battery Soccer Club; the South Carolina Stingrays hockey team; The Citadel; and the University of South Carolina-Lancaster.

The Sports Medicine team also takes care of the College of Charleston and the Charleston RiverDogs baseball team. And it provides on-site care for professional tennis events and the Lowcountry Highrollers women’s roller derby team and the Charleston Blockade Rugby Football Club.

That’s a lot to manage, but Mike Barr is on top of it. He manages the Sports Medicine program at MUSC Health. He said a lot of people misunderstand what athletic trainers do. “Athletic trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who specialize in both the management of injuries or medical conditions ailing athletes as well as injury prevention and treatment.”

Those conditions include not only extreme situations such as sudden cardiac arrest, but also more routine ailments, Barr said. “The most common injuries are related to the musculoskeletal system – from mild to severe sprains and strains. Some of these injuries need time and rehabilitation treatments, while others need surgical intervention. After musculoskeletal-related injuries, the next would be concussions followed by heat-related issues.”

To read the full story from the Medical University of South Carolina, click here. 

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