New Study Says Preparation Can Prevent Cardiac Arrest Fatalities in High School Athletes



Last week, Dr. Jonathan Drezner of the University of Washington in Seattle presented findings at the National Trainers’ Association regarding survival outcomes for high school student athletes who suffered cardiac arrest. Dr. Drezner and his team conducted a two-year long observational study of 2,149 high schools. During those two years, 59 sudden cardiac arrests occurred. Of these cases, students comprised 26 or 44% of the incidents while adults made up the remaining 33 or 56% of cases. 71% of these 59 victims survived at least past their hospital discharge which is stunning compared to the 8% survival rate for patients who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital.

The numbers were even more promising for students, especially student athletes. While only 61% of the adult cardiac arrest patients in the study survived, 85% of all student patients and 89% of student athlete patients were kept alive. Dr. Drezner suggests several reasons for these improved outcomes:

  • 55 of the 59 cardiac arrests were witnessed. 
  • 54 of the 59 cardiac arrest victims received immediate CPR.
  • An automated external defibrillator was used in 39 of 59 cases.

Furthermore, Dr. Drezner reports that 87% of all the schools surveyed had an AED on the premises. 66% of the reported cardiac arrests occurred during a sporting event or practice, which heightens the likelihood an AED was readily available as schools generally place their first unit in the gym. Dr. Drezner praises high schools for taking measures to keep student athletes safe. “A standard of care has evolved that supports AED programs in high schools that sponsor athletic events. It’s critical and it clearly works.” (Source) His findings suggest that other organizations and businesses could become equally prepared by having a set emergency plan and an AED on site.

Dr. Drezner also recently headed a NCAA study which supported creating a standard of electrocardiogram (ECG) screening for student athletes. These kinds of screenings can help identify potential cardiac arrest victims allowing necessary preventative measures to be taken.

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