Saving lives: How prepared are YOU for a youth sports emergency?

Saving lives: How prepared are YOU for a youth sports emergency?


By Greg Bach

When Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) strikes the outcome for most is usually death.

Dayle Wood is one of the lucky ones.

Five years ago Wood, then a freshman on the Aquinas (Mich.) College volleyball team, collapsed during a Monday practice.

Teammates rushed to tell Aquinas athletic trainer Kevin Parker, who found her without a pulse and not breathing. Using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver a shock, and then performing chest compressions, he was able to help her resume breathing on her own. Taken by ambulance to the hospital, she was put in a medically induced coma to allow her body to recover.  

If not for Parker’s training, and the close proximity of an AED, this story likely has a tragic ending.

“There is this statistic that stands out so prominent in my mind that only 10 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive and that is because that for the other 90 percent there wasn’t access to an AED or there wasn’t someone with the knowledge in how to use it,” Wood says. “That is a pretty terrifying statistic. It’s hard to fathom that I was part of that 10 percent.”

(Watch this video featuring them talking about that incredible afternoon.)

Wood shares her story to help shift the spotlight on this important safety issue. More AEDs at facilities, combined with more individuals knowing how to use them, can save lives when emergencies happen.

“The more knowledge and the more awareness that is out there we can start changing that 10 percent,” Wood says. “That statistic just rings in my mind and it’s pretty scary.”

We spoke with Parker to get his thoughts on the importance of sports organizations being prepared for emergencies and using AEDs:  

SPORTINGKID LIVE: What do youth sports organizations need to do to be prepared in case a young athlete goes down?

PARKER: I think the bare minimum – whether we’re talking Little League baseball, lacrosse or whatever the sport – the bare minimum is that every coach should be first aid, CPR and AED certified. And I think they need to take a page from us that these skills should be reviewed once a month or every two months. Along with that there needs to be a venue-specific plan for something that goes wrong. A parent from the stands calling 9-1-1 if something happens may not give the correct address so there needs to be a little more concerted effort behind the scenes in youth sports and a little more preparation, in my opinion. Ideally, we get to the point where each youth sports association is employing an athletic trainer and they’re handling that stuff.

SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are your thoughts on the fact that many youth sports organizations dealing with tight budgets may not think it’s feasible to hire an athletic trainer, or fear that requiring coaches to go through a training may drive them away from volunteering?

PARKER: It’s about what the parents of the children who are involved in those recreational activities in youth sports want; it’s what they prioritize and what they push for. They’re the ones that can be the most vocal advocates. Do I think we’re to the point where every recreation department in the country is going to employ a full-time athletic trainer? No, I don’t think we are there yet. But there are things in parts of the country like GO4ELLIS, which is an app that organizes per diem work for athletic trainers in youth sports, so athletic trainers can then provide coverage. (Additional resources: Athletes Saving Athletes and the AT Your Own Risk program.)

SPORTINGKID LIVE: How important is it to practice for an emergency?

PARKER: Those are skills that you have to practice because they are perishable. The more you practice something the better you are when things don’t go as planned. One day you may have people available to help you and other days you may not. So it’s absolutely something that we have to practice and we practice on a fairly regular basis. If you practice enough your training takes over in an emergency. Any situation where you activate your emergency action plan the next day or a day or two later you should go back and debrief and figure out what worked well and what didn’t. I always tell students when we are debriefing that in the moment your training is going to take over – you need to remain calm and focused and take care of your job at hand. The more you practice the better you are at doing it in the moment.

SPORTINGKID LIVE: What is your message to volunteer coaches who may feel they have a lot on their plate already if a recreation agency informs them that they need this additional training?

PARKER: It needs to be viewed not as just one more thing that I have to do in order to coach, or simply one more box that I have to check. It needs to be something that’s taken seriously and practiced more than once a year.

SPORTINGKID LIVE: Is learning how to use an AED difficult?

PARKER: If you can understand simple commands and follow the pictures on the pads where they are placed on the person, it’s easy to utilize. It’s not intimidating at all. The intimidating thing is overcoming the inertia to actually help if you see someone go down. This is why you need to practice it more than once a year, so you’re willing to step forward and provide care. The big thing is that you don’t know when bad things are going to happen, but you need to be prepared for when they do. Taking the time ahead of time to do that preparation will save not only potentially lives but also regret.

CPR AED Sudden Cardiac Arrest Safety

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