On Feb. 25, Portage High School hosted Kankakee Valley in a boys’ basketball game. It was a pretty forgettable affair except perhaps for the Portage players and coaches who won, 44-40.
Working the game with local referee John Van Wagner that evening was Ken Yott of Zionsville. Yott likes to work games around the state and had officiated with Van Wagner before.
Last week, they were together again, two of the six officials assigned to the Center Grove Boys Sectional. On Friday night, their experience would not be forgettable at all. Yott worked the first game between Franklin and Greenwood; Van Wagner, the second between Franklin Central and the host school.
With under two minutes to go in game one, Van Wagner and his two partners were in the dressing room when they were suddenly called to the floor. Yott had collapsed.
By the time Van Wagner reached Yott’s side, he was being attended to by Center Grove head athletic trainer David Buccholz, ATC, his assistant, the athletic trainers from Franklin and Greenwood, and Center Grove’s team physician. He had regained consciousness. CPR was never started. The AED attached to his chest never went off.
But he was having a heart attack.
Upon arrival at Community Hospital (Indianapolis) South, Yott was whisked to the cardiac cath lab. Before midnight, his fully blocked artery had been reopened with a stent and IHSAA Asst. Commissioner Phil Gardner was waiting for him as he was wheeled from the cath lab to his room.
“I talked to him this morning,” said Van Wagner on Saturday, “and he’s fine.”
Buccholz was thankful for the outcome, saying that was the closest he had ever come to doing CPR and using an AED after more than 20 years as an athletic trainer. He visited Yott in the hospital Saturday morning. “He said he’d be back (officiating),” said Buccholz.
And adhering to a better diet enforced by his wife, according to Van Wagner.
February was National Heart Month and March is National Athletic Training Month. What better time then, than now, for all adults involved in sports as referees, administrators and coaches to take stock of how they take care themselves? They should also assess if their arenas are prepared for an event like the one Yott experienced.
According to data released by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in June of last year, athletic trainers now serve in approximately two-thirds of the high schools in the country. However, as recently as 2010, an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service found only 46% of Indiana high schools were covered and 43% in Illinois.
A University of Washington study, published last year, found that 87 percent of high schools nationwide have an AED. For schools so equipped, the survival rate for a witnessed cardiac arrest was 71%. For schools that relied upon EMS to bring an AED, only 50%.
No AED, no ATC? Nobody can like those odds.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT