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WMJ study suggests need for CPR-certified coaches in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, it’s coaches—78 percent of the time—who are the first responders to an on-the-field collapse of a student-athlete or bystander, according to a study published in the August issue of WMJ. Yet only about 50 percent of Wisconsin’s high school coaches are CPR certified.

“In Wisconsin, the proportion of coaches who act as the primary responder to a collapse is greater than others have reported, and the proportion of CPR-certified coaches is lower than the national average,” the authors wrote. “This discrepancy creates a dangerous gap in the emergency care of our adolescent athletes.”

There is no Wisconsin law mandating CPR certification for coaches, nor does the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) make it a requirement, despite the fact that nearly half of the states in the United States have a CPR certification for coaches. Nearly 90 percent of high school athletic directors surveyed agreed coaches should be CPR certified, but just 32 percent of schools require it. In addition, only 55 percent of survey respondents favored legislation requiring CPR certification for high school or youth coaches. The reasons cited for the opposition included a lack of time, financial constraints, the number of coaches to be certified and the lack of available CPR training opportunities.

The report also gauged the presence of trained medical professionals at practices and competitions for 14 WIAA sanctioned sports. According to the study, football had the highest percentage, 88 percent, where trained responders were present at the games; 55 percent had athletic trainers who attended practices. Basketball, wrestling and volleyball had trained professionals at fewer than 67 percent of their competitions, while nine of the 14 sports had a trained responder present at less than 50 percent of competitions.

The study found that a majority of the schools had an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) response time of four to nine minutes to an emergency call, but the researchers also expressed concern over the number of athletic directors who indicated they had an EMS response time of more than nine minutes.

“If CPR is not initiated during this nine-minute interval, the athlete will have less than a 10 percent chance of survival,” the authors wrote. “Given the lack of trainers present at most high school sports practices and competitions, the ideal trained responder is the coach who is always present at games and practices and can initiate CPR immediately.”

WMJ is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Wisconsin Medical Society six times a year. Click here to access the current issue.

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