National Conference: Dr. Jonathan Drezner leads discussion on sudden cardiac arrest


Injury data and research for youth sports make national headlines on a regular basis, but certain injuries or causes are highlighted while others are not put in the limelight.

Recently, education about sudden cardiac arrest has been brought to the forefront of youth sports and for a simple reason – sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death in youth and teen athletes while participating in sports.

Dr. Jonathan Drezner, professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and a member of the USA Football Medical Advisory Committee, led the discussion on this topic for the 600-plus youth and high school football leaders at the 2015 USA Football National Conference in Indianapolis this past weekend.

“Any child who collapses and is unresponsive on the playing field should be assumed to be in cardiac arrest until proven otherwise,” Drezner said.

Click here for Dr. Drezner’s slide presentation at the 2015 National Conference

Click here for Q&A with Dr. Drezner

Sudden cardiac arrest typically includes an underlying heart condition or disease, which makes preseason medical screening so important – though not foolproof. Signs include collapsing, chest pain, racing heart, fatigue, shortness of breath and in some cases seizure-like activity.

As part of his presentation, Drezner showed the collapse and death of Hank Gathers a college basketball player who died in 1990 of sudden cardiac arrest.

The entire Indiana Convention Center Ballroom went silent.

“The sudden cardiac arrest presentation was great,” said Kevin Charles, executive director of Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association. “In Delaware, we have a law that every coach has to attend a presentation on cardiac arrest each season. The video that was shown (Dr. Drezner) depicted what it can look like and would be great for our coaches’ presentations.”

The shocking reality of sudden cardiac arrest is that it can happen at any time and often without any warning as sudden cardiac arrest survivor Matt Nader shared in his story.

Student-athletes are required to have medical physicals before participation at the high school and college levels, but not all physicals require a heart screening or EKG, which would help with depiction.

Drezner stressed the importance of recognizing the signs, the importance of having an automated external defibrillator (AED) at every sporting event and calling 911 upon seeing any sign of sudden cardiac arrest.

USA Football recently announced its partnership with Physio-Control, which will provide grants making AEDs available to youth and high school football programs.

Along with having AEDs at all sporting events, it is important for the staff to be properly trained and for an emergency action plan to be in place. Everyone from the athletic training staff to coaches should be properly trained in CPR and response to sudden cardiac arrest using an AED.

Quick response and identification can be the difference between life and death.

Provided by: USA Football


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