How we prepare for the number one cause of death in teenage athletes

Chris Schattschneider
Student Athlete

Although sudden cardiac arrest in adolescents is rare - occurring in three out of 100,000 - it’s the number one cause of death in teenage athletes in the United States. Did you know that Agnesian HealthCare’s athletic trainers have portable AEDs that travel with them to all of their sporting events?

What is an AED? An AED is an automatic external defibrillator used to assess a heart rhythm and administer a shock to re-establish an effective heart rhythm. If applied to a patient it will determine if a shock is required which can re-establish an effective rhythm.

When is it needed? The chance of survival decreases by 10 percent if a sudden cardiac arrest occurs for every minute the patient goes without defibrillation. With average response time of EMS being eight to 10 minutes, having an AED on-site is critical to the individual’s survival chances.

What about CPR? Cardiopulmonary resuscitation when done correctly can save lives. Performing chest compressions with rescue breathing while the AED is applied greatly improves survival rates. Having an AED present at sporting events, combined with new directive from the WIAA requiring all paid coaches to become certified in CPR and AED use, is a move in the right direction.

Where do I find an AED if an athletic trainer or EMS isn’t present at an athletic event? Most events that take place at schools or public facilities will have an AED located nearby. It’s important to assess the area when you arrive to know where they are located and if possible have the AED removed from the cabinet and placed on the sidelines. 

If you find that an area where you spend a lot of time watching your young athletes participate in sports doesn’t have an AED, seek out the organization that sponsors it or the entity that maintains the area. There are many organizations that will gladly donate the funds to outfit an area with an AED. If you haven’t taken a CPR class in a while, sign up for one today.

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