5 Questions You Should Ask Your Child’s Sports Coach
About 60 million children and teens, from ages 6 to 18, participate in organized sports each year according to the National Council of Youth Sports. Increasingly, student athletes are training or competing year-round, often on multiple teams. Having youth involved in sports is associated with improved physical, developmental, and psychological health and can teach students valuable lessons that they can’t always learn in the classroom. As their activity level and frequency increases, though, so does their risk for sports-related injuries.
To keep our children safe while engaged in sports, it’s important to recognize that Sudden Cardiac Arrest not only happens to youth athletes but that it is more prevalent than we may think. Each year, thousands of student athletes experience SCA, often with fatal outcomes. SCA is the leading cause of death on school campuses and the #1 cause of death for student athletes, claiming the lives of an estimated 23,000 students annually in the United States alone.
As fall sports season is underway, it’s important to understand your child’s risk factors and to engage their coaches, athletic director, and school in conversations that have the potential to be lifesaving. Here are 5 questions you need to ask your child’s athletics coach to make sure you’re safeguarding their heart.
Who Comprises the School’s Sports Medicine Team?
Sports medicine teams exist to help prevent, evaluate and treat athletic injuries for student athletes. It is the responsibility of the sports medicine team to develop and implement health and safety guidelines so that schools are in compliance with established best practices as well as state laws. Typically the team will include a school nurse, athletic director, coach of the particular sports team, and an athletic trainer. Asking who is on the sports medicine team will help you learn the best point of contact for your medical and sports related questions, as well as give you a sense of the resources available to your student athlete.
Is There an Emergency Action Plan in Place?
Emergency Action Plans, or EAPs, outline step-by-step procedures for an immediate response to cardiac arrest incidents that may occur during sports and school related activities. It covers how to notify medical professionals, use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and coordinate with emergency services. Schools that have robust, well thought out, and rehearsed EAPs in place demonstrate their commitment to protecting students from potential cardiac emergencies. Some schools that host away teams conduct “medical timeouts” before games to ensure that everyone who is new to the campus knows where the lifesaving equipment is.
Thinking that “It won’t happen here” must go away. Parents need to ask the hard question and demand to know where the AED is located in relation to their child’s sporting event. And if the school or league tells you they don’t have one or it’s locked up in an office somewhere, parents need to demand change.
Mike Hopper, Chief Athletic Trainer, Bishop Lynch High School
Does the School Have Access to an AED?
AEDs are lifesaving devices that can significantly increase a person’s chances of survival from SCA. They are used to deliver an electric shock to the heart to help restore its normal rhythm during a cardiac arrest. Because athletes possess an elevated risk of SCA, many states require schools to have AEDs on the premises and at all sporting events. It’s important to make sure your child’s school is prioritizing safety, and having an AED on campus is the first step.
Follow up questions should be, “Where is your AED and do all the coaches know where it is?” An AED does no good if it’s hidden in an office or in a locked cabinet, and the only thing worse than not having an AED at school is having an AED on campus and not using it when it’s needed.
Are Coaches Trained in CPR and First Aid?
Coaches and athletic trainers who are trained in CPR and First Aid can quickly provide immediate assistance for medical emergencies that may occur during a practice or competitive sports event. In the case of cardiac arrest, time is of the absolute essence, as a person’s chances of survival decrease by 7-10% for every minute that passes without CPR or a shock from an AED. A coach or trainer’s ability to quickly and confidently jump into action to perform CPR and apply an AED could mean the difference between life and death during a cardiac emergency.
Are Preventative Heart Screenings Part of the Athletic Program?
Research has shown that 1 in 300 youth athletes have an undiagnosed heart condition, putting them at greater risk for SCA. Electrocardiagram or EKG screenings are an important part of understanding what your child’s risk factors may be and how your family can help manage the underlying condition. If your child is diagnosed with a heart condition, your school is likely required to have an AED available on campus.
Be a strong advocate for your child’s safety and wellbeing. As fall sports season ramps up, be sure to ask you child’s coach and sports medicine teams these 5 questions, and have a conversation with your child to ensure they understand what measures are in place for their protection.
Pro Tip: Stay ahead of the game with the Avive Connect AED.