It can happen in the blink of an eye. One minute, your student athlete is competing and everything is normal; the next minute they are on the ground and medical staff is rushing over to them. Usually the injury is something minor, but if the collapse is caused by a heart condition, death can be the unfortunate outcome.
Many parents are unaware that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the number one cause of death among student athletes, with over 7,000 cases around the country each year. The most effective way to treat SCA is with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), a portable defibrillation unit to shock the heart into beating again. Unfortunately, not all schools have an AED on hand, increasing the risk of death or permanent damage for SCA victims.
COMMON CAUSES OF SCA & SCHOOL HEART DISORDER SCREENING
SCA in young adults is typically caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic disease that causes the tissues of the heart to thicken, making it harder to pump blood through the body. Athletes with this condition overexert the heart with exercise, causing it to stop. Another less common cause of SCA is commotio cordis, where an individual has an abnormally thin chest wall. Abrupt blows to the chest from a projectile can cause SCA in athletes with this condition.
Many schools have started to screen student athletes for heart disorders before clearing them for play, but if the condition goes undetected, the risk for SCA increases.
IMMEDIATE AED TREATMENT CAN SAVE PLAYERS’ LIVES IN CARDIAC ARRESTS
When the heart stops, every second matters. Athletes who receive immediate treatment from an AED are much more likely to recover from SCA than those who need to wait for EMTs to arrive. Survival rates for individuals who receive shock treatment within one to three minutes of their collapse range from 70-90 percent. The average ambulance response time is nearly 10 minutes, which drastically decreases the likelihood of survival.
AEDs are so effective that 19 states require their school districts to have one on hand, however the laws vary from state to state and school to school. For example, in some states, only public high schools with athletic programs need to purchase an AED. In other states, all schools (public, private, charter, and even colleges) must have at least one available for use.
Missouri and Kansas currently do not have specific legislation requiring AED use at schools, but the districts can still purchase them independently. Concerned parents can have a big impact on their school’s decision to acquire an AED. Parents should contact their school board or superintendent to see if the school has an AED, where it is located, who is trained to use it, and whether or not the school has an emergency plan in place.
WHEN TO SEEK LEGAL COUNSEL FOR STUDENT ATHLETES & FAMILIES
If your student athlete suffered from cardiac arrest during an athletic event, it’s important to discuss the case with a skilled personal injury attorney. If there was negligence involved, you may be eligible to receive compensation for medical bills as well as pain and suffering. Your options for litigation may vary depending on which school your child attends and if the school had protocols in place for medical screenings and emergency situations.
At Tatlow Gump Faiella and Wheelan, your case will be treated as our first priority, with the personalized service, attention to detail, and compassion you need. Our representation is on a contingency basis, so we don’t make any money unless we win your case. Our initial consultations are always free, so contact us today to set up an appointment to learn your rights. 800.264.3455