Matters of the Heart

by Pat Hade


Sudden Cardiac Arrest in sports happens. Here’s what you should know:

  • Defibrillation within three minutes of the SCA lifts the chance of survival to 70 percent.
  • Survival is directly linked to the time interval between the Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the first AED shock delivered to the victim.
  • An AED only delivers a shock if it is necessary to restore the patient’s heart rhythm: the devices first analyze the victim's condition to determine if a shock is required.

There is generally no warning before an athlete collapses and his heart stops beating. When shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED)is delivered within one minute, however, survival rates can increase eighteen fold from 5% (by relying on EMS response only) to levels as high as 90%. In terms of life or death, those aren’t odds we can disregard.

Statistically, the first three minutes after an SCA are crucial. After 10 minutes, even if revived, the prediction for quality of life is grim. Unless your facility is next door to a 24 hour Emergency Response Unit, the EMTs have little chance of reaching your athlete within that crucial 3 minute window or of being there in 10 minutes. That leaves it up to the people in the facility to be able to act.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a specific four-step "Chain-of-Survival" for SCA.

  1. 911 – Call immediately
  2. Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  3. Early Defibrillation with an AED
  4. Early Advanced Life Support

Every person, player, spectator, and employee in your facility knows to call 911 in an emergency. Your staff, coaches and many parents and players are trained in CPR. That brings us to #3: in order to provide early defibrillation there must be an AED on premises. Since the purchase of an AED today is less than $1.00 per player’s fee in the typical facility, there is little reason not to have one. Yet there are numerous facilities that don’t.

There seem to be two “myths” that prevent wide spread adoption of AEDs in facilities:

First, people mistakenly believe that having an AED increases the facilities’ liability. Section 248 of The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act of 2000*, however, provides liability protection for AED users and acquirers. In addition, there are often state law protections. And finally, with increasing awareness of the effectiveness and ease of AEDs, supported by public statements of the American Heart Association, the Red Cross and the US government, your liability may well be increased when you don’t have an AED that is readily accessible.

The second myth is that training personnel is expensive. Obviously it’s cheap compared to being sued; however, training personnel does not have to be much more expensive than basic CPR training, and most CPR courses now include training in AEDs. Plus, facilities insured through USIndoor's insurance program receive a 2% credit against their general liability premium.

Is there really a choice?

*Consult Section 248 of The Cardiac Arrest Survival Actfor details of immunity criteria.



Additional References:

Automated External Defibrillators, Richard Perse, GOAL Indoor, Spring 2011 (Members-Only)
Statistics, compiled by Cardiac Science
Red Cross Training, developed with the US Olympic Committee

USIndoor disclaims the accuracy of the information contained herein and urges consultation with local legal counsel prior to taking any action that could impact liability.

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