Putting AEDs on Sports Fields

Response times crucial for schools and athletes

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for young athletes. In fact, every 3 days a young athlete in the United States dies from sudden cardiac arrest.

Even healthy, seemingly low-risk youth can experience this when performing strenuous activities. And the likelihood only increases with age: Spectators at sporting events are also more likely to need medical assistance related to heart problems.

According to a study in Sports Health, schools and organizations sponsoring athletic programs should use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) as part of a comprehensive emergency action plan for sudden cardiac arrest.

Quickly applying an AED is the most important priority to improve survival in sudden cardiac arrest.

"In a collapsed and unresponsive athlete," the study concludes, "sudden cardiac arrest should be suspected and an automated external defibrillator applied as soon as possible."

Ensuring there is an AED for every sporting event can be tricky—especially if there are multiple events going on at the same time. They key is to have a plan and be prepared.

How close should an AED be to the field?

It’s very important for an AED to be close by. According to MomsTeam, "an assessment should be done to make sure that an AED is located within a 2-minute brisk walk of every nook and cranny of a school or to the farthest reaches of an athletic field."

And the time it takes to notify the designated responders, access the AED, reach the victim's side, apply the electrodes, and deliver the first shock should be no more than 4 minutes.

Why so little time? The survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest decreases about 10% for every minute that passes without defibrillation. By the time the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) typically arrive (9-12 minutes later), the survival rate drops to 5%.

All teams should have a response plan, which should look something like this:

  1. Player is collapsed on the field.
  2. Without hesitation, rush to the player and assess their breathing and responsiveness.
  3. If not breathing or unresponsive, have someone call 911.
  4. Begin CPR, have someone retrieve the AED.
  5. Begin using the AED as soon as possible. Continue until emergency personnel arrive on the scene.

Things you can do to help:

  • Talk to your child’s coach. Ask them if they’re certified in both CPR and AED. Are the assistant coaches certified? Make sure people with certified skills are on the field for each practice and game.
  • Contact school administrators to learn about the number of AEDs in the school and their locations. If there aren’t AEDs on the field during sporting events, ask them why. High-quality AEDs are now more affordable than ever and should be a priority for parents and schools alike.
  • Make sure the AED is easily accessible at sporting events. It won’t help if they’re tucked away somewhere or locked in an office and no one knows where it is. Place a sign or directional arrow to help people locate it, and post AED locations on bulletin boards.
  • Get CPR certified. Sometimes it’s best to lead by example. There’s an easy step-by-step guide to learning CPR, and training courses that you can complete in just a few hours.
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