• Top 4 Deadly Risks in High School Sports

    Here in DCPS, our Athleitc Trianers, Coaches, and Student-Athletes are educated and prepared for the top 4 deadly risks in high school sports. Below we have listed the risks, along with information on what they are, how to recognize them, how to prevent them, and what to do if an episode happens. 

    1. Sudden Cardiac Arrest

    Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs, making this a life-threatening episode.

    What are we doing about it?

    • All athletes are required to have a pre-participation physical exam
    • All coaches are CPR/AED certified
    • All coaches and students are required to watch the “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” Video on NFHS Learn, to be properly educated on the recognition and immediate treatment of SCA.
    • At least one AED device is available on each high school and middle school campus (Paxon has 8!)
    • Athletic Trainers create emergency action plans and rehearse them with coaches to expedite care in the event of this emergency.


    2. Exertional Heat Stroke

    Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) occurs when there is a problem with the thermoregulatory system in the body, and therefore the cooling process gets disrupted. The body cannot cool itself through normal mechanisms like sweating, and this causes the internal body temperature to rise above normal levels. When this happens without treatment, and individual can suffer from minor to major conditions, such as organ failure, death, or other long-term complications.

    What are we doing about it?

    • DCPS is required to have all students and coaches complete the “Heat Illness Prevention” course on NFHS Learn so that they can be informed of proper ways to prevent and immediately treat the condition.
    • Every DCPS high school also has a Certified Athletic Trainer who is trained in the prevention, recognition, and treatment of EHS, and knows to COOL FIRST, THEN TRANSPORT.
      • This means: the only life-saving treatment for EHS is to cool the body down before transporting to the hospital. This is done the gold-standard way: Cold Water Immersion Tub. Almost every DCPS high school has a CWI tub, which can save an athlete’s life from an EHS episode. (Paxon has 2!)
    • Coaches are Required to follow the FHSAA Heat Acclimatization guidelines
    • Policies are in place for monitoring Heat Conditions and accommodating practices/games to reduce the risk.

    Athletic Trainers create emergency action plans, including cooling via CWI tub, and rehearse them with coaches to expedite care in the event of this emergency.


    3. Exertional Sickling

    Exertional sickling occurs in athletes who carry the sickle cell trait. When the red blood cells (RBCs) change shape or “sickle”, it causes a buildup of RBSs in small blood vessels, leading to decreased blood flow. This drop in blood flow leads to a break-down of muscle tissue and cell death, known as fulminant rhabdomyolysis.

    What are we doing about it?

    • All athletes are required to have a pre-participation physical exam that can inform an individual of whether or not they have sickle-cell trait.
    • Athletic Trainers create emergency action plans and rehearse them to expedite care in the event of an emergency. For exertional sickling, the best immediate treatment is the removal from activity and the application of supplemental oxygen.
    • Coaches are given, via the Athletic Trainer, a list of athletes at risk to aid the Athletic Trainer with prevention.

    Heat acclimatization and hydration protocols are set in place by FHSAA and DCPS.


    4. Head Injuries

    Head injuries are included in the top deadly risks for sports. Head injuries may include but are not limited to: concussions, skull fractures, cranial nerve damage, neck fractures, and spinal cord damage. Long term head injuries/damages can be seen as second impact syndrome, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and personality changes.

    What are we doing about it?

    • DCPS has a concussion policy (located on the Policies and Pocedures Page) to decrease the chance of second impact syndrome by removing athletes from play after signs or symptoms of sustaining a head injury.
    • By catching a head injury right away, healing can begin sooner and the outcomes are more favorable for full recovery.
    • Athletes are required to complete the AT-18 form and are referred to a physician via the Athletic Trainer to be further evaluated to rule out other injury to the brain.
      • Normal brain imaging studies themselves do not rule out a concussion or predict a safe return to physical activity. That is why the athlete starts the return to play protocol on the AT-18 form once he/she is symptom free.
    • Coaches and athletes are required to watch an educational video on NFHS Learn about concussions, to help educate them on how to identify concussion symptoms and how to immediately handle the athletes.
      • Specifically stated in the Athletic Training Policies and Procedures Manual, “Parents, Athletes, Coaches, Teachers, Administrators and associated health care providers will be provided educational opportunities in regard to sports related concussion and concussion management prior to each sporting season.”
    • Coaches should be completely versed in appropriate sizing and fitting of all protective equipment (e.g., helmets).
    • Coaches should also educate players and reinforce the proper fundamental skills that help protect them from head or other injury.

    Signs and Symptoms of a Head or Neck Injury

    Signs (what is observed by others)

    • Appears dazed or stunned
    • Is confused about assignment or position
    • Forgets an instruction
    • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
    • Moves clumsily
    • Answers questions slowly
    • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
    • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
    • Can’t recall events after hit or fall
    • Holding neck after hit or fall
    • Unresponsive or unconscious after hit or fall to the head/neck

    Symptoms (what athlete states)

    • Headache or “pressure in head”
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Balance problems or dizziness
    • Double or blurry vision
    • Sensitivity to light or noise
    • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
    • Concentration or memory problems
    • Confusion
    • Fatigue
    • Complains of neck pain or tightness
    • Cannot move neck