Defibrillators at kids’ sporting events save lives

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Having automated external
defibrillators (AEDs) and coaches trained in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) at organized sporting events for children
can save lives, researchers report in The Journal of

In the paper, Dr. Neal J. Thomas from Penn State Children’s
Hospital, in Hershey, Pennsylvania and colleagues present the
case of a healthy 13-year-old boy who experienced “commotio
cordis” — a sudden cardiac arrest that leads to death — after
being hit in the chest by a baseball.

Coaches trained in basic life support started CPR,
including chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,
immediately after the boy collapsed at home plate. Paramedics
arrived 6 to 8 minutes later, determined that the boy was in
ventricular fibrillation, and shocked him back into normal
sinus rhythm using an AED.

In ventricular fibrillation or VF, the electrical impulses
controlling the heartbeat become chaotic, causing the heart’s
main pumping chambers (the ventricles) to quiver instead of
contracting normally. Unless VF is corrected by an electrical
shock from an AED, the person can die within minutes.

“We have documented proof,” Thomas told Reuters Health,
that this child was in ventricular fibrillation and that then,
with the cardiac shock provided by the AED, he was converted
back to a normal sinus rhythm.

According to Thomas, most Division 1 college sports and
athletic departments, as well as some high schools already have
AEDs, but not many grade schools do, despite the fact that
commotio cordis almost always happens in children.

“AEDs are available in malls and in most places where a
large number of people gather, but they are not commonly
available in youth sport events, mainly because of the cost,”
Thomas said. The price of an AED, which is very easy to use,
ranges between 2,500 and 4,000 dollars.

“Although only a small group of children can die of sudden
cardiac arrest, there is a whole host of diseases that can
cause sudden cardiac death in young athletes and in
bystanders,” Thomas said. “Having AEDs available may impact not
only the athletes but also the spectators.”

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics, December 2005.

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