Defibrillator Decision

A noticeable increase in ink used to cover an issue or subject is one way to catch and prepare for trends. One issue that’s making the rounds in the mainstream press is the AED, or Automated External Defibrillator.

The Washington Post reports, as part of an article about AEDs in health clubs, “Although firm data are not available, extrapolations from a few studies suggest that at least 1,500 Americans die each year after collapsing in health clubs, country clubs and other athletic venues.”

And, in this increasingly litigious culture, there are emerging legal precedents and legislation that may impact our use of AEDs in public venues. As noted in the Washington Post article, “The fitness industry’s wariness [about installing AEDs throughout their facilities] arises in large part from a fear that installing defibrillators will expose clubs to lawsuits if someone dies after the device is used, officials say.

Ironically, however, the few lawsuits involving AEDs have all been against organizations that did not have them.”

Jonathan Masone, deputy commissioner with the Town of Hempstead, N.Y., Department of Parks and Recreation, reports that in the State of New York, bill #A-8779-A was passed, making it mandatory for any school with more than 1,000 students to have an accessible AED any time the school is open. The parents of a ninth grader, who was hit in the chest with a lacrosse ball and died on the field, lobbied for this bill.

The purpose of this bill was twofold… First, AEDs would be accessible for any emergency that occurred during the school day to students and staff. Second, that it would be accessible for any after school sports team on campus or off campus.

Schools in the State of New York that have AEDs, regardless of their student populations, must have an approved procedure by the State Department of Education. State law has mandated that educational systems be required to train, implement and ensure that the AED equipment is accessible at all times.

AEDs are arguably the hottest item in acute care of injury and illness in the United States. A quick review of the several recent policy decisions regarding professional and public access to AEDs should serve as sufficient notice for public and private recreational and sport organizations, to consider affording at least their properly trained staff, access to an AED.

AED Rundown

Applicable organizations are nearly endless, but for the purpose of this article, they include camps, parks and recreation departments, sports and fitness venues, YMCAs, YWCAs, Boys and Girls clubs, community recreation centers, youth and adult sport programs (especially those programs with Certified Athletic Trainers who are required to be trained in the use of AEDs), and other comparable recreation and leisure providers.

Automated External Defibrillators are typically about the size of a laptop, portable, and uniquely capable of analyzing a victim’s heart for abnormalities in rhythm.

When necessary, the AED will direct a rescuer (sometimes in a single-step process) to deliver an electrical shock. This AED-produced shock is the third step in a critical four-step process known as the Cardiac Chain of Survival:

• Step one: Early access to care (calling 911 or another emergency number)

• Step two: Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

• Step three: Early defibrillation

• Step four: Early advanced cardiac life support as needed

Delivered correctly after performing the first two steps, the third step, or early defibrillation (delivering an electrical shock to the heart), “…is recognized as the most critical step in restoring cardiac rhythm and resuscitating a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. This shock, called defibrillation, may help the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm of its own.”

Currently, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) has posted on its Web site an Official Statement regarding AEDs. This statement is based upon research regarding sudden cardiac arrest in infants, children and adolescents and statistics published by the American Heart Association regarding heart disease and stroke statistics.

Specifically, NATA states that the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest should be a priority among certified athletic trainers (ATCs). Further, the NATA states, “An AED program should be part of an athletic trainer’s emergency action plan.”

If you are wondering why your organization should be concerned about AEDs when it may have nothing to do specifically with organized sports or camps (a common place for an ATC), read on!

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