Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Youth Sports Safety: 5 Questions Every Parent Should Ask, #3


Continuing the discussion about the questions parents should ask before letting their children participate in youth and high school sports, let's talk about CPR and AED training.  Before I continue this discussion, I want to reiterate that I do not believe that it is in the best interest of any participant to depend only on individuals trained  in CPR and AED.  Athletic trainers should be available at all times, especially for youth participants.  See last week’s post for my arguments advocating for athletic trainers by clicking HERE.  That said, there is always value in having additional personnel trained in CPR and AED should an emergency arise.

There are a variety of organizations that offer the opportunity to be trained and certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED).  Depending on your role, you may have the option to take a course for the “lay person,” a “professional rescuer” and some organizations even offer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course work.  The following organizations offer training:

You can check out their websites to find out more information about courses offered in your area.  Information typically available on the website will include a description of the type of course offered, dates, locations, and costs.  Certified instructors in your area at the local fire department, school district or college or university may also offer courses.  Typically, once you earn your certification it is active for two years at which time you must re-certify to maintain your active status, but organization requirements can vary so read your card carefully.

If there is not an athletic trainer available (I would argue even if there is one available), minimally at least one of the coaches or other team/league/school personnel need to be certified in CPR and AED.  Many high schools (and some youth leagues) actually mandate this for coaches as part of standard policy.  Parents should be diligent in making sure coaches and staff members who are required to maintain these certifications do.  As an example, often times many college coaches must be certified in CPR and AED even though an athletic trainer is available regularly as part of a university requirement, making them an important resource in an emergency.

Individuals trained in CPR and AED have the ability to quickly assess a situation and ascertain whether it is a life-threatening emergency and activate Emergency Medical Services (EMS).  Additionally, they are able to provide immediate care in the situation of choking, someone who is not breathing, and someone in the midst of a cardiac emergency.  This list of situations is not as broad in scope as what an athletic trainer can handle, but it does allow care to be provided to someone whose life hangs in the balance.  It is important to emphasize that if you are working with youth athletes you want to be sure you enroll in a course that addresses utilizing these techniques on children and not just adults.  Some of the expectations vary slightly due to the size of a given victim. 

Being certified to provide CPR and use an AED can be an invaluable set of skills in an emergency, but you do not have to be certified to help should you see someone collapse.  There are also opportunities to be trained in something called compression only CPR.  This is a continuous version of CPR that does not require rescue breathing, meaning no mouth-to-mouth contact.  If an AED is available, you should utilize it; it is designed to walk you through all the necessary steps to use it properly, even if you have not had any formal training.  You do not have to be worried about legal ramifications when helping someone who has collapsed, despite not being certified; Good Samaritan laws protect you.  Athletes who complete the Athletes Saving Athletes program through Advocates for Injured Athletes are trained in compression only CPR.  An A4IA video will be coming soon, in the meantime check out this video from the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the developers of the technique.

Again, I want to emphasize how important it is to have a full-time athletic trainer, who is trained to recognize and manage many more emergency situations beyond those covered by CPR and AED training, available as often as possible.  It is also important to have additional individuals who are trained in the key emergency situations that are covered by CPR and AED training to assist the athletic trainer as necessary.  In the worst case, individuals trained in CPR and AED (whether coaches or other staff) must be available to activate EMS as the first line of defense in an emergency when an athletic trainer is not available.  Parents need to be sure someone is available to help your child when needed, so you should always ask what resources are available.

I focused mostly on CPR here and did not specifically address the role of the AED in emergency care in a suspected cardiac emergency, but I will address AEDs specifically in my next post, when answering the question:

 Are AEDs available?  

Submitted by Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC

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