Bronny James suffers cardiac arrest, what University of Arizona staff does to prepare for its student athletes

Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 7:11 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 26, 2023 at 7:19 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Incoming freshman, and son of Lebron James, Bronny James suffered a cardiac arrest during basketball practice yesterday at the University of Southern California. After being transferred to the ICU, James is in stable condition.

James’ case, however, isn’t isolated.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among young athletes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 50-to-80 thousand each year suffer sudden cardiac arrest. But for basketball players, the risk of suffering cardiac arrest can be much higher.

“In men’s basketball, they had a higher incidence ratio, a risk of one in 5000, compared to other sports,” said Dr. Stephen Paul. Dr. Paul is the medical director of athletic medicine at the University of Arizona.

“Black athletes and male athletes,” he continues, “had a higher risk too, and that was like 25 percent of that population was due to that. So, that made a pivotal shift in how we look at this in the college population.”

Dr. Paul has been helping student-athletes since 1991 and oversees all athletics medical services. Before any Wildcat can step foot on the court, track, or field, he says athletes must take a pre-participation physical.

Recently, Dr. Paul and his team reviewed their rules and procedures to ensure they were on track to keep athletes and spectators healthy.

“The point we took home was everybody has their emergency action plan, and everyone has them in place and practices them, but the important thing is you have to practice with purpose,” he says.

Dr. Paul mentions that anyone from the staff interacting with a student-athlete must undergo CPR and AED training and must take a refresher course every year.

The problem may be seen in high schools and rural communities that may not have the resources available to prevent a cardiac death or other injury.

“They may not have that same facility and that’s what we really need to do as a community basis is uplift all of those programs, so that there’s an AED at every site where you have kids playing, people are trained to use it, and people practice it and have an emergency action plan.”

On the court, seconds can be the difference between winning and losing. Those same seconds can be the difference between life and death for an athlete suffering cardiac arrest.

Do your CPR training, do your AED training,” Dr. Paul says.

“The more, the better, and then practice it.”

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