As we’ve shared previously, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in youth sports, but, if SCA occurs in a sports arena equipped with an AED, athletes can survive the majority of the time!
Youth coaches are leaders in our communities. Our children view them as role models and look up to them for advice above-and-beyond their feedback on the sports field. Thus, it stands to reason that our coaches are in a unique position to teach and inform our young athletes about “heart safety,” – vital skills they can take on-and-off the court. In fact, in California, AB 379 seeks to require the same protocols used for concussions in youth and high school sports to apply to when a youth appears to be suffering from SCA-related symptoms.
So, what can coaches do before their season starts?
Below are four easy – but meaningful – actions that any coach can take.
1. Carry an AED
7,000 to 10,000 school-aged children die of SCA each year, and 1 in 300 children has an undetected heart condition. SCA in youth, particularly during athletics, is a serious issue.
While AED units remain expensive, companies like Revive Solutions are doing everything in their power to reduce the cost. If you can’t afford one on your own, ask the team’s parents or the league to pitch in; the more AED coverage you and the other coaches can provide, the better.
AEDs don’t do any good if they’re not accessible, so be sure to bring your AED to all practices and games like you would your regular sporting equipment. You never know if it may be needed, and it’s always better to have an AED unit that you don’t use than not have an AED that you need to use.
2. Inform everyone – all of the other coaches in the league, referees, parents, and participants – of the location of your AED and basic instructions on its use
As any coach can attest, their team is rarely the only one practicing at any given point in time. Other teams, athletes, or spectators could experience someone collapse, and you might have the nearest life-saving defibrillator. So make sure they know you have one!
3. Teach Hands-only CPR
Use your leadership position to teach your team life-saving skills that your athletes will carry with them forever. Teach them a simple course that covers recognizing the signs and symptoms of SCA, how to activate the chain of survival, how to buy the victim time with CPR, and how to use your AED.
Kids like to learn, and the more kids who know these essential steps, the faster our cardiac arrest response times will be, saving more lives in our communities. (Bonus: if you like to give your team a good workout, try asking them to perform high-quality CPR for two minutes!)
4. Make Sure That Your AED is Ready: Check the operability of your equipment regularly
An AED that isn’t functioning properly is of no use to anyone, and it could get you into hot water. Read your AED operator’s manual to learn how to determine its readiness status, and get in the habit of verifying that it has passed all self-tests before you take it out with you. Make sure to keep your AED’s batteries and electrode pads fresh and within their useful life. (not sure if you should also buy pediatric AED pads? Check out our guide to learn more.)
Want to perform these actions but stuck on not having the funds to acquire an AED? Sign up for our newsletter and let us know your situation. Maybe we can help! We’re always looking into creative ways to help equip our communities with AEDs!