May 14, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- Three months ago, Ron Courson, the UGA Athletic Association's Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, agreed to give a speech on sudden cardiac arrest at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's conference this weekend in Charlotte, N.C.
Little did Courson know, his procedures would be enacted less than 72 hours prior to his presentation.
Thursday afternoon, Courson and the UGA Sports Medicine staff were pressed into action when Al Schmidt, the director of track and field for Mississippi State, collapsed during the first day of the Southeastern Conferenece Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the Spec Towns Track.
"He was on the infield and sustained a cardiac arrest," Courson said. "The response from our track and field medical staff was outstanding. David Chandler, our track and field athletic trainer, was immediately there and recognized sudden cardiac arrest. He and Dr. Don Lazas, the father of an Arkansas decathlete, quickly started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). We were fortunate Dr. Lazas was there and are extremely thankful for his assistance. We were able to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) we had on site and successfully resuscitate him. The key to an emergency plan is preparation. We rehearse our emergency action plan regularly each year with all of our athletic trainers, physicians and paramedics. In this situation, we had tremendous teamwork from everyone. Our athletic training staff, student athletic trainers, the paramedics, the campus police, event management, the physical plant staff, the hospital staff – everyone worked together. We communicated from the track with the hospital and our team physicians so the hospital was prepared for our arrival. We contacted Mississippi State and they were able to quickly provide his medical records to the hospital which were greatly helpful. The emergency plan worked well because we had practiced and rehearsed it and thankfully we had a good outcome."
"I can guarantee that response went above and beyond," said Georgia track and field head coach Wayne Norton. "Not only were they quick, but they knew what to do."
Schmidt was transported to Athens Regional Medical Center where his condition is stable.
"The hospital did a tremendous job," Courson said. "They reached out to the Mississippi State family and provided them with a private waiting room. They also made available an on-campus residence for his wife when she arrived, which we knew would be in the middle of the night."
While Courson prides himself on emergency preparedness, even he finds the timing of Thursday's incident occuring so close to his presentation ironic.
"It's ironic in a lot of ways," Courson said. "Four of our athletic training students and one of our graduate athletic trainers were here working the meet and all of them had just finished last week an emergency care class that I teach. One thing that we talk about in that class is that you never know when an emergency will happen. It can happen at any time. Sometimes you think about emergencies happening in high-collision sports like football or hockey or lacrosse but an emergency can truly happen at any time.
"This lecture came about four years ago when the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) developed a position statement on cardiac arrest," Courson continued. "We wrote an inter association consensus statement where we brought together athletic trainers, physicians, emergency medical technicians and other healthcare providers to develop standardized procedures for recognition and management of sudden cardiac arrest. Once a year, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association asks us to present on hot topics in sports medicine. This year, we will lead discussions on sudden cardiac arrest and concussions in sport. Cardiac arrest has been in the news recently with the unfortunate and highly publicized death of the high school basketball player in Michigan. It is the leading cause of death in athletes. At this conference, the top sportscasters and sportswriters from all 50 states will be there and we'll have a presentation and a forum where they can ask questions. Hopefully, we'll help raise the public awareness."
Courson already has experienced positive feedback from Thursday's efforts.
"It was an example of when bad things happen, good things can come out of it," Courson said. "Having everyone and everything in the right place at the right time helped save a life. I've already had a call from someone with the Athens Little League today asking how we can help them make sure they have defibrillators on site as well as develop an emergency action plan."
Courson also aims to broaden the Athletic Association's preparation for emergency response to include student-athletes.
"We set a goal earlier this year to have our student athletes become CPR certified," Courson said. "That's something we've been doing with our coaches and strength and conditioning staff for years. We are currently training all of our sports medicine staff members as CPR instructors. Starting next year, we plan on having every one of our student-athletes in every sport go through CPR training. You never know when something is going to happen to a family member or a friend. The worst feeling in the world is not being able to do something to help when an emergency arises. Emergencies can happen at any time, not just at sporting events. We hope our student-athletes never have to perform CPR but we believe strongly that it's something they should be trained to do."