It can happen on the ice or in the stands; waiting at the snack bar during a Peewee game or sitting on the bench during a late-night adult Rec league.
Heart attacks don’t happen often at an ice rink, but when they do, the ability to act and react quickly can be the difference between life and death.
One of the most effective tools on the market is the automated external defibrillator, or AED for short.
They come in various shapes and sizes and can be found at airports and bus stations, super markets and office buildings.
They can even be found at many ice rinks across the country, but not all. And that’s what concerns Dr. Alan Ashare. As the head of USA Hockey’s Safety and Protective Committee, Ashare has long campaigned to have AEDs in every rink.
In addition, Ashare says that AEDs should be readily available with easy access, and that rink employees should know how to use them as part of their regular training in CPR.
“It’s a simple device to use and it’s been proven to save lives,” Ashare says.
When a person goes into cardiac arrest, the electrical activity in the heart is thrown into chaos. What the AED is designed to shock it back into proper working order. And time being of the essence, it’s important to perform the procedure quickly, which is why it’s important to have AEDs readily accessible in public places.
“If you have to wait for an ambulance or fire truck that has one of these AEDs valuable minutes are ticking away. So the sooner they can get defibrillated, the better,” says Mark Boldrighini, a trained EMT and EMT instructor in Lowell, Mass., who is an associate registrar for Massachusetts and a member of SPEC.
According to Jeff Thieler, the head of Serving the American Rinks, there is no available data to tell how many rinks in the U.S. have AEDs on site, but as the industry leader, STAR encourages rinks to not only have at least one AED but to also train its people on how to use them.
“Having an AED in every rink is definitely the responsible thing to do,” Thieler says. “Not only are you protecting your customers, but you’re staff as well, because they’re in the rink every day.”
There are numerous documented cases where an AED has been used to save the life of a player, coach or spectator at a rink. One such case took place earlier this year at the Comcast Community Ice Rink in Everett, Wash., where several quick-acting rink employees came to the aid of a 56-year-old man who suffered a heart attack during an adult game. The staff revived him using an AED device and took turns administering CPR until emergency personnel could reach the scene.