New Guidelines to Protect Student Athletes

New guidelines outlining the causes and prevention of sudden death among athletes were released this week by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) in the United States.

“These guidelines were developed for any level of sports participation, and to truly help save a life,” NATA President Marjorie Albohm said in an association news release. “It is also critical that a school, team or league’s medical professionals have an emergency action plan in place. In the event that an injury occurs, every minute counts when it comes to appropriate care and transport of the athlete.”

“While collegiate and professional teams have athletic trainers on staff to prevent and treat injuries, only 42 percent of high schools have access to our members,” Albohm noted. “Legislation is improving, though, with 35 states and Washington, D.C., having passed youth sports safety laws. And the NFL just mandated new guidelines requiring athletic trainers in booths during games to watch for hard hits and concussions.”

The new position statement includes many recommendations for preventing sudden death among athletes. Here are some of the highlights:

  • An athlete’s chances of survival are much greater if there is an established, site-specific emergency plan.
  • Recognition of the type of problem is key to treatment. Sudden cardiac arrest should be suspected in any athlete who has collapsed and is unresponsive.
  • Public access to early defibrillation is critical. The time between when an athlete collapses and receives the first shock from an automated external defibrillator should be less than three to five minutes.
  • If a serious brain injury is suspected in an unresponsive athlete, medical staff must be prepared to transport the athlete to a health-care facility, while ensuring adequate ventilation and elevating the head to help decrease intracranial pressure.
  • In cases of suspected heatstroke, the athlete’s core temperature must be determined soon after collapse to ensure accurate and immediate assessment.
  • Ensure athletes with asthma are properly educated about their condition and how to recognize good or bad breathing days. A structured warm-up program may decrease their risk of an asthma attack or their reliance on asthma medications.

The position statement appears in the February issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

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