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Physicians focus on preventing high school sports-related deaths

Reported by: Jerry Brown
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Updated: 6/25/2013 10:57 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- At least 40 high school athletes died from sports-related injuries last year across the nation. That's the official tally, but the number is believed to be much higher.

Were those deaths preventable?

News 3's Jerry Brown spoke with some leading national experts in town to address that very question.

Local athletes are beating the late afternoon heat by playing their football indoors at Big League Dreams Sports Park but, although heat stroke might not be on their radar, there are some other health factors that just might concern them.

The National Athletic trainers' association meeting at Mandalay Bay focused on preventing high school sports related fatalities.

Dr. Douglas Casa, Ph.D, directs athletic training education at UConn and he told News 3 there are three main culprits.

“Cardiac, heat stroke and concussion, there over 80 percent of all deaths are just related to those three, and then in the summer months, especially August, heat stroke is definitely the leading cause of deaths,” Dr. Casa said.

Dr Jonathan Drezner is based in Seattle, where he teaches at the University of Washington, and serves as team physician to the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.

For him concussions are a prime concern. He says helmet design still has a long way to go.

“They prevent some catastrophic head events and brain injury, some of the bleeds, some of the skull fractures, but it doesn't prevent all concussion, and obviously in most sports you are not wearing a helmet,” Dr. Drezner said.

All young athletes he says, should be screened to see if they meet at-risk models for sudden cardiac arrest, but when it does happen there needs to be help close by.

“We want to recognize it quickly, we want to start CPR right away, we want a defibrillator that is close, and those portable defibrillators known as AEDs really need to be at all of our sporting venues, especially for youth sports.”

Here in the Desert Southwest, exertional heat stroke is a special cause for concern although heat stroke-related deaths are greater in the southeast due to higher humidity.

“Heat stroke can strike anybody in any part of the country,” Dr. Casa said. “It's just a matter of getting your body too hot for an extended period of time, and that can also happen to a kid in Nevada.”

Fortunately some states are doing something about the risk of heat stroke.

“So far 10 of the 50 states have adopted heat acclimatization guidelines, and we are trying to get all the states to meet the minimum requirements for heat acclimatization,” Dr. Casa said.

Dr. Casa said Nevada is not one of those 10. Nevada physicians have made some strides but they haven't quite made the standards that were published in 2009 for high school athletes for heat acclimatization.

Given the extreme heat that characterizes southern Nevada’s desert climate you might be surprised that our state lags behind in that area.




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