A high school athletic trainer and coach explain how they respond to a medical emergency

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:29 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Autum Lopata has a sobering responsibility.

She’s contracted as an athletic trainer at Center Point-Urbana.

“When you get there and (an athlete) needs CPR you start CPR. If he needs an AED you got an AED if he needs an ambulance you call an ambulance,” said Lopata.

A team of medical experts was able to help Bills safety Damar Hamlin within minutes of collapsing on the field, but resources at a high school game are more limited.

Often, it’s just one trainer, like Lopata.

“A lot of people ask ‘do you have fun watching basketball watching baseball watching soccer?’” Lopata said. “I enjoy watching the sports but I’m not really watching for the benefit of seeing our team succeed. I’m out there because I’m making sure everybody comes off that playing field healthy.”

Even though automated external defibrillators (AEDs) aren’t required at Iowa high schools, CPU has one.

Lopata is first on the chain of command during a medical emergency, but she can’t be at every practice and game.

“The coach is the next chain of command,” Lopata said. “He has to know what he has to do what his duties are.”

According to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, coaches are required to receive a CPR training certificate.

But that’s just one aspect of the effort it takes to possibly save a life. The state requires each school have an emergency care plan.

Mike Hilmer is the Activities Director and Head boys basketball coach at North Linn. He showed TV9 North Linn’s plan.

It gives instructions on what to do in case of emergency, like where to find the closest AED, driving directions to the give to EMS, and more.

“Obviously being in a rural community we’re not gonna have access to getting somebody to the hospital as quickly as somebody else’s,” Hilmer said. “The immediate reaction that our coaches, our trainers, the EMS on site take are gonna be a lot more important than they might be if you’re two minutes from the hospital.”

Lopata says the combined effort from coaches and trainers will help bridge the gap between a small school’s response and the response of a large professional team.

“Everybody has a role,” Lapota said. “As long as everybody is prepared, and everybody understands their rule, you’ll get the same type of healthcare that you need in a high school setting as they do at the NFL.”