Jan 29, 2015
Session Notes: Preventing Sudden Death

The Johnson & Johnson Feature Presentation at the 2010 NATA convention focused on what is arguably the athletic trainer’s foremost responsibility: “Preventing Sudden Death During Sport and Physical Activity.” The main topics covered were sudden cardiac arrest, exertional sickling, head injuries (particularly concussions), and heat stroke, and the four presenters–Ron Courson of the University of Georgia, Scott Anderson of the University of Oklahoma, Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina, and Doug Casa of the University of Connecticut–have all been quoted in T&C in recent years for their expertise in those areas.

For each topic, the guidelines for prevention and intervention are well known among athletic trainers. But a common theme among the speakers was the importance of not just acting correctly, but acting fast–beginning treatment as quickly as possible, and making every second count.

For instance, Ron Courson discussed common mistakes that slow treatment when an athlete suffers sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Imagine this scenario when an athlete collapses: The athletic trainer arrives, spends 30 seconds checking multiple sites for a pulse, and then checks for breathing. The athlete begins to seize, so the athletic trainer stabilizes the head until the seizure ends. By the time it’s determined the athlete’s heart has stopped beating and an AED is needed, several minutes might have passed, and there’s further delay while the AED is retrieved and applied.

Courson put up a graph showing that for every minute between an SCA event and the start of defibrillation, survival rate decreases by seven to 10 percent–so those lost minutes can literally mean life or death. He advised spending no more than a few seconds checking for pulse and breathing, and assuming that any seizing athlete who has no history of seizure is experiencing SCA. The AED will determine whether the heart is stopped before delivering a shock, so it should be applied right away.

Session co-presenter Doug Casa participated in a roundtable discussion about preventing heat illness just last summer in T&C. Click here to read it.

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