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Nebraska Association Establishes ‘Head, Heart, Heat’ Program

By Cody Porter on November 04, 2016 hst Print

The risks associated with concussions, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and external heat illness in high school sports has led to the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) creating educational protocol for high school administrators and coaches.

Labeled the “Head, Heart, Heat Program,” the initiative’s goal is to help member schools be better prepared for emergency situations by educating them on the best management and prevention practices for each area of concern.

“At the NSAA, we tried to create something that we could promote as an initiative to get the word out and educate our member schools,” said Ron Higdon, NSAA assistant director. “We talk about educating
them to protect themselves. It’s about risk minimization. That, coupled with the NFHS ‘Anyone Can Save a Life Program,’ goes out to all schools and creates the emergency action plan presentation.”

In 2013, the NSAA began requiring all member high school coaches to take the NFHS Learning Center’s first free course, “Concussion in Sports.”

This past year, the NSAA Board of Directors passed a bylaw that requires all coaches to take the three NFHS online classes, including “Concussion in Sports,” “Heat Illness Prevention” and “Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).”

Higdon said SCA poses the biggest threat to “school-aged children.” Occurring when the heart unexpectedly and abruptly quits beating, SCA increases the importance of an on-site automated external defibrillator (AED). After surveying schools on concussions in 2013, the NSAA did the same on AEDs. The NSAA discovered that 96 percent have them. Thanks to the survey, those without were discovered and by the end of 2013, 100 percent of NSAA member schools had AEDs.

Using an AED on someone within three minutes of SCA increases the chances of survival to 70 percent, according to Higdon. Doing so within one minute increases the survival rate to 90 percent. The NFHS Learning Center offers “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” to help coaches, students and others learn and recognize the warning signs and symptoms of SCA.

External heat illnesses come in several forms. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are common and often not severe. External heat stroke (EHS), however, is the most severe type, occasionally resulting in fatalities and other significant consequences. Heat illness is the third leading cause of death in high school athletes nationwide. With quick and accurate treatment, EHS is preventable. More can be discovered with the NFHS Learning Center’s free online course, “Heat Illness Prevention.”

“We have to be proactive rather than reactive,” Higdon said. “When we’re doing this, we’re trying to get to the point so if something happens, you’re prepared.”

The NSAA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee first explored the Head, Heart, Heat Program after attending the first Collaborative Solutions for Safety in Sport meeting in New York City with the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Korey Stringer Institute and the NFL. Beginning with July’s Administrator Days in Kearney, Nebraska, the NSAA and NCSA began offering educational opportunities to attendees.