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SPORTS MEDICINE: National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month a time to look back

SPORTS MEDICINE: National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month a time to look back


Can you remember back to Feb. 11, 2020?

COVID-19 may have been raging in China, but it was thought here to be a distant problem. Although the virus had arrived by then in the United States, it had done so under the radar. There had yet to be a single death related to the infection recorded in this country at that point, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, life went normally on, with one notable exception. For Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues, life nearly ended altogether.

As reported here at the time, the 36-year-old defenseman collapsed, the victim of sudden cardiac arrest. Fortunately, he did so on the Blues bench in the middle of a game at Anaheim, with athletic trainers and physicians present. A portable defibrillator (AED) was immediately deployed and he was successfully resuscitated. By the time he was placed on an ambulance stretcher to be transported to UC Irvine Medical Center, Bouwmeester was conscious and alert.

The initial prognosis was promising. However, three days after the initial incident, Bouwmeester had a defibrillator surgically implanted in his chest. Apparently, his condition was so serious that the procedure could not wait for a return to St. Louis.

Bouwmeester owns the longest streak ever for consecutive games by an NHL defenseman at 737, achieved between 2004 and 2014. However, despite feeling fine — and being thankful, the iron man announced late in February he would not return for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Little did he know that the NHL was about to take a multi-month hiatus.

When the season did resume for the Blues, though, in a bubble in Edmonton in July, the team announced that Bouwmeester was not going to be with them.

It is unlikely he will ever be with the Blues — or any other NHL team — again. Yet, the former Olympic gold medalist (Sochi 2014) should still be thankful. The presence of medical professionals and their swift use of the AED made his chance of survival much greater.

A study published in 2018 in Sports Health identified 132 cases of SCA suffered among athletes age 11 to 27 between 2014 and 2016. Survival to discharge from a hospital was the result for 64, or 48% of the victims. However, if an AED was present and used promptly, the survival rate increased to 89%. Furthermore, whether an AED was available or not, if an athletic trainer was in attendance, the survival rate was 83%.

Had Bouwmeester been stricken at home or on a city street, his chance of survival would have been only 10%. Multiple studies have consistently demonstrated that rate nationwide.

A more recent study, since the onset of COVID-19, reported worse numbers. The decreased survivability was blamed on bystanders declining to do CPR, because of being fearful of catching the virus, and paramedics taking longer to arrive, due to having to don extra equipment to protect themselves from the virus.

If more members of the general public were trained and willing to do CPR, the success rate found in athletic arenas would be duplicated elsewhere.

With October being National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation is urging all to “learn about the Chain of Survival and how to save the life of someone you love” — or a complete stranger.

According to the SCAF, the “Chain of Survival” is the chain of events that must occur in rapid succession to maximize the chances of survival from SCA. Each link in the chain is equally important, with the chain only as strong as its weakest link. Bystanders will help save lives if they provide the first four.

The links are:

• Recognize SCA. An unresponsive person who displays abnormal breathing has likely suffered SCA.

• Call 911 and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.

• Start CPR because it triples the chance of survival. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest, 100-120 pumps/minute. There is no need for a bystander, who is not a medical professional, to provide rescue breathing.

• Use an AED to restart the heart. Turn the machine on and it will provide step-by-step audio/visual instructions.

• Advanced EMS care will be provided onsite by paramedics who will then transport the patient to the hospital.

• Hospital care will be provided by physicians, nurses, and other professionals, who will continue appropriate post-cardiac arrest protocols.

To find a CPR course near you from the American Heart Association, go to To find one from the American Red Cross, go to At both websites, click on “Find a class.”

CPR/AED certification is required of high school coaches. Youth, club, and AAU coaches should be held to the same standard.

John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.


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