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Advocating for Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness: A Soccer Mom’s Mission

cardiac arrest in soccer

On June 12, 2020, while on vacation with my extended family, I received news that enlightened me about the safety of young athletes, forever altering my perspective and motivating me to make change. As a passionate soccer mom and a huge fan of Christian Eriksen, I was left in shock when I learned that he had collapsed on the field due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). The terror that gripped his family during those moments left me haunted, and I couldn’t help but think of my own children. This incident marked the beginning of a journey I never expected to take.

The Birth of a Mission: Ohio Soccer Moms & Dads

I’ve always considered myself a professional soccer mom, fully invested in my children’s soccer activities. In 2018, I founded Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads, an online community that supports and connects soccer parents not just in Ohio, but around the world. Little did I know that this community would become a platform for an advocacy mission that was about to unfold.

An Urgent Need for Preventative Measures

The incident involving Christian Eriksen spurred me to take action. I immediately began researching SCA, its survival rates, and the essential role of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in saving lives. I sought to understand, “What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?” “What are the chances of survival from Sudden Cardiac Arrest?” and “What is an AED?” It soon became clear. I embarked on a mission to raise awareness about the importance of AEDs in schools and sports facilities.

First, I challenged the Ohio Soccer Community to commit to creating safer soccer fields by having an AED available on every field for every practice and every game. I then reached out to my local legislator, Rep. Richard Brown who aligned with our goal, advocated on our behalf, and was instrumental in getting Ohio House Bill 47 signed into law requiring AEDs be placed in schools and public recreational facilities.  

What I encourage in our soccer community is this: We need to be the leaders in this arena, we need to show the rest of our community that this is important and that it can be done. We can’t wait for laws to be put into place. We need to make our space safe for everyone–players, coaches, referees and spectators.

Challenges in Implementing Safety Measures

Over the past 2.5 years, advocating for more AEDs on soccer fields has revealed significant obstacles. The cost is often cited as a challenge, though often not openly discussed. Concerns about logistics, maintenance, and potential vandalism have also been raised. Moreover, the shortage of available AEDs has been a surprising roadblock for many organizations. These hurdles, however, only intensify my determination to make changes in the soccer space and across all youth sports and schools.

A Personal Connection to AEDs and Sports Safety

As my advocacy journey continued, my own son’s experience with syncope episodes brought the issue even closer to home. I witnessed my child undergo numerous tests and evaluations which underscored the importance of having AEDs available and emergency action plans in place. Every week, I learned of more SCA survivor stories, along with tragic losses. Each one strengthening my resolve to get AEDs on every sideline.

Empowering Parents to Drive Change

My advice to fellow parents and caregivers is simple yet crucial: inquire about your club’s emergency action plan and the location of the nearest AED. If an AED isn’t available, initiate the conversation and take the lead in coordinating its acquisition, along with CPR and AED training. Every player, coach, referee, and spectator deserves to be protected.

In Ohio, we have been actively working with the Matthew Mangine Jr Foundation (MMJF) to provide Compression CPR training and Emergency Action Plan rehearsals to soccer organizations and schools across the entire state.  MMJF is an incredible organization that sources AEDs, raises awareness and supports advocacy efforts all across the country, all in memory of Matthew Mangine Jr who succumbed to Sudden Cardiac Arrest while practicing soccer at his High School. There are organizations like MMJF all across the country, and I suggest every parent interested in supporting SCA Awareness efforts in their community find a local organization to help them amplify their efforts and work together to solve this problem on a local level.

A Game-Changer: The Avive Connect AED™

In my pursuit of accessible AEDs, I discovered the Avive Connect AED, a solution that addresses key barriers. Its affordability, diagnostic features, and immediate availability make it a standout solution. The Avive Connect AED has the potential to revolutionize how AEDs are deployed and managed, ultimately saving more lives.

Legislation for Lifesaving Change

In Ohio, the journey towards improving SCA outcomes gained momentum with legislative efforts. While “Lindsey’s Law” marked an essential step, the new Ohio House Bill 47 builds upon it. This bill not only acknowledges the risk of SCA but mandates emergency action plans and AED accessibility. It’s a critical stride towards safeguarding young athletes in Ohio.

A Bright Future, Better SCA Outcomes

Looking ahead, I envision a future where AEDs are ubiquitous on sports fields. However, beyond AED deployment, raising awareness about SCA is paramount. The Avive Solutions team has the potential to lead advocacy efforts, champion legislative changes, and promote comprehensive emergency action plans and training.

From a devoted soccer mom to a relentless advocate for SCA awareness, my journey has been unexpected yet purposeful. Eriksen’s collapse ignited a fire within me to ensure the safety of young athletes. His story is not only one of warning but of one of hope. What seemed like it could have been the end was just a blip, Eriksen was sitting upright and giving a thumbs up to his fans before being taken off the field. Just 229 days after his near death experience he was back on the pitch. All because of an AED. Through Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads, my voice has joined others in demanding change. With more AED availability at the forefront, we have the power to turn a near tragedy into a catalyst for positive change, making every field safer and saving lives in the process.

About the Author

Jennifer Dunaway is an Ohio-native and experienced soccer coach, referee, club and team admin. She is the founder and editor of Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads, a free resource for soccer parents in Ohio and across the country. Having successfully championed the writing of Ohio House Bill 47 – which requires all schools and public recreational facilities to have emergency action plans and AEDs on site – Jennifer is dedicated to providing top-notch soccer resources for families navigating their youth soccer journey. She is married to Nick and has six children with whom she resides in Columbus, Ohio.

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