Who's Responsible for Preventable Deaths in Athletes?

Released: 26-Jul-2011 12:40 PM EDT
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Citations The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Schools Must Take Active Steps to Prevent Heat Stroke and Other Causes of Sudden Death

Newswise — Philadelphia, Pa. (July 26, 2011) – Colleges and high schools must follow an active strategy to preventing deaths among student athletes from exertional heat stroke (EHS) and other causes, according to an editorial in a recent issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

"[I]nstead of school and university administrators, sport coaches, and strength and conditioning coaches merely hoping that these stories will not become a reality to their athletes, schools must start actively assuming the responsibility of reducing risk factors associated with these conditions," write Julie K. Demartini, MA, ATC, and Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, of the Korey Stringer Institute at Neag School of Education, University Connecticut, Storrs.

Athletic Trainers and Coaches Bear Major Responsibility for Preventing Deaths
Despite the availability of effective prevention strategies, many types of preventable deaths in athletes have become more common in recent years. In addition to EHS, these include exertional sickling, which may occur in patients with sickle cell disease; and sudden cardiac death, often related to previously unsuspected genetic conditions. Korey Stringer, for whom the Korey Stringer Institute was named, was a National Football League player who died of EHS in 2001.

Why do these preventable deaths continue to occur? Because of lack of awareness and a passive approach to dealing with the problem, Demartini and Casa believe. In their editorial, they outline and strongly advocate for a series of active steps that schools and coaches can take to reduce the risk of preventable deaths in athletes.

First and foremost, an emergency action plan (EAP) should be in place wherever athletic practices, conditioning sessions, and competitions are held. The EAP provides a blueprint for handling emergencies while establishing accountability.

Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) play a critical role in designing and following the EAP. Demartini and Casa recommend that high schools hire an ATC, while universities should ensure that they have an adequate number of trainers for their athletic programs. If an ATC is not present, athletic directors and coaches must assume responsibility for the EAP.

The authors also call for mandatory training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator use for all coaches. While coaches can't be held to the same expectations as ATCs, they do need to be aware of the conditions that can cause sudden death, be able to recognize those conditions, and initiate life-saving first aid.

Perhaps most importantly, coaches must be willing to alter their usual practice routine to prevent EHS and other causes of sudden death from occurring. Especially in hot weather, coaches must be responsible for safe practice regimens including rest breaks, hydration, heat acclimatization, time of day, and intensity of drills.

Coaches must also be aware of which athletes may be at risk of sudden death and be willing to alter conditioning drills and practices to avoid those risks. As part of the active strategy to prevent deaths, Demartini and Casa believe that administrators must "aggressively penalize" coaches who endanger the health and safety of athletes.

Finally, the authors also recommend that all college and high school strength and conditioning coaches be certified by the NSCA. As an organization, the NSCA places a top priority on health and safety issues and is working to demand that all Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)-credentialed coaches follow minimum health and safety standards.

About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The editorial mission of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) is to advance the knowledge about strength and conditioning through research. A unique aspect of this journal is that it includes recommendations for the practical use of research findings. While the journal name identifies strength and conditioning as separate entities, strength is considered a part of conditioning. The journal wishes to promote the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts which add to our understanding of conditioning and sport through applied exercise science. The JSCR is the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

About the National Strength and Conditioning Association
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978. The NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission, the NSCA bridges the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field. By working to find practical applications for new research findings in the strength and conditioning field, the Association fosters the development of strength training and conditioning as a discipline and as a profession.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services.

LWW is part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company with 2010 annual revenues of €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion).


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