Defibrillators Now Standard Equipment at All Minnesota State Tournaments

By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
StarTribune.com

Last update: October 30, 2009 – 8:09 AM

Along with water bottles and clipboards, portable heart defibrillators will now be standard equipment on the sidelines at Minnesota state tournament venues, the state’s governing body for high school athletics has announced.

The external devices will be deployed by medical personnel “so we can ensure that we have all of the tools in place so that we can respond and give the victim a chance of survival,” Jody Redman, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), said Thursday.

The MSHSL bought eight defibrillators from Heart Sine and Wilson Safety for use in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, which is the No. 1 cause of death in young athletes and the leading overall cause of death in the nation (325,000 fatalities annually).

Redman said awareness has been heightened in Minnesota about sudden cardiac arrest involving athletes because there have been 10 reported incidents in the state in the past 22 months.

One of those incidents occurred in June, when the life of Wayzata High School’s Ted Okerstrom was spared with the help of a defibrillator and the quick action of the 16-year-old’s football coaches and teammates.

Okerstrom suffered sudden cardiac arrest during a running drill, and one of his coaches started CPR. The athletic department secretary, who is also an emergency medical technician, had the fastest runner in the school get the defibrillator into the hands of assistant coach Ryan Johnson.

“Using the [defibrillator] took so much pressure off of us,” said Johnson, a volunteer firefighter. “It literally walked us through the steps we needed to take … It advised us what to do, when to push harder when doing chest compressions, and when to administer a shock.”

HeartSine and Wilson Safety also are offering all MSHSL member schools an opportunity to buy additional defibrillators at the same reduced cost that the league paid ($1,200 to $1,600, rather than $1,400 to $2,100, depending on model).

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482