Automated External Defibrillators in Athletic Medicine

Limitations of the cardiovascular screening process, the overwhelming desire to protect young athletes from a tragic event, and the success of early defibrillation programs (Caffrey et al., 2002; Page et al., 2000; Valenzuela et al., 2000) using accessible automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have propelled the placement of AEDs into the athletic setting (Drezner et al., 2005). Recent research suggests an improved survival rate for young athletes with sudden cardiac arrest if early defibrillation is achieved. A retrospective cohort of 1710 U.S. high schools with an on-site AED program found 14 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in high school student-athletes and a 64% survival rate if early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and prompt defibrillation with an AED were provided (Drezner et al., 2009).

Comprehensive emergency response planning is needed to ensure an efficient and structured response to sudden cardiac arrest in the athletic setting. This includes establishing a communication system to activate the emergency medical services (EMS) system and alert any on-site response team, training of anticipated responders (e.g., coaches) in CPR and AED use, access to an AED, and practice and review of the response plan. High suspicion of sudden cardiac death should be maintained in any collapsed and unresponsive athlete, with application of an AED as soon as possible for rhythm analysis and defibrillation if indicated (Drezner et al., 2007).

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