Student Well-Being

Athletic Trainers Suggest How to Prevent Sudden Death in Youth Sports

By Bryan Toporek — December 06, 2011 2 min read

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association released a first-of-its-kind position statement today on sudden death in youth sports, combining 10 older position statements from the organization into one 14-page document.

While the older position statements each took an expansive look at one particular youth-sports safety issue, never before has there been a position statement covering such a wide range of causes of death in youth athletes.

NATA also held its third annual Youth Sports Safety Summit today in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the release of the position statement. Researchers, athletic trainers, and parents of deceased student-athletes gathered to share their expertise in the ways sudden death in youth sports can be prevented.

“We believe that 90 to 95 percent of the deaths that happen in youth sports are preventable,” said Dr. Douglas Casa, co-chair of the new policy statement, at the summit.

In the new statement, NATA members examined the leading causes of death in student-athletes, namely: asthma, catastrophic brain injuries, cervical spine injuries, diabetes, exertional heat stroke, exertional hyponatremia, exertional sickling, head-down contact in football, lightning, and cardiac arrest.

“Recognizing the many reasons for sudden death allows us to create and implement emergency action plans (EAPs) that provide detailed guidelines for prevention, recognition, treatment, and return to play (RTP),” the statement reads.

Nearly half of high schools lack athletic trainers, according to NATA, leaving coaches, athletic directors, or strength and conditioning coaches to shoulder the burden of immediately tending to student-athlete injuries. Since these professionals lack the medical expertise of an athletic trainer, NATA strongly recommends that all schools have an EAP in place, to guide school officials through emergency situations.

“You always have to prepare, because it’s the unexpected that really sneaks up on you and causes problems,” said Jon Almquist, an administrator of the Fairfax County Public Schools Athletic Training Program, during the summit.

Almquist hosted the final panel of the day, on EAPs, where he stressed that EAPs aren’t a school’s way of saying that they don’t trust the coach to handle an emergency situation. Instead, EAPs help guide a coach or school official through the high-pressure situation of dealing with an injured child.

A number of the panelists stressed that EAPs and the new policy statement should apply to .

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.