On the advice of his doctor, Frank, a 59 year-old businessman with a heart condition, began taking tennis lessons. His instructions were to begin very slowly, one half hour, and to do absolutely no running.
During the lesson, which was conducted by a certified USPTA professional, Frank would hit balls for five minutes and then rest for two. After 30 minutes, Frank had worked up a slight sweat, but was feeling good and booked a lesson for the next day. Ten minutes later, Frank collapsed in the locker room with a heart attack and, despite efforts to revive him, died.
John, a 43 year old, slightly overweight, accountant had just returned from a successful business trip. Recently promoted to a top position with his firm, John was tired but excited about his promising future and looking forward to his weekly tennis clinic. Two hours later, John was dead of a massive heart attack.
These two tragedies, both of which actually occurred, are the nightmare of every tennis player. If you or one of your friends were to suffer a life-threatening crisis, such as John and Frank, would you or anyone at your club be able to provide the emergency care necessary to keep them alive until the proper medical attention arrived?
THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States with approximately 1.5 million americans suffering heart attacks each year. 700,000 of those stricken do not survive. 100,000 die within the first five minutes of the attack and another 350,000 die before ever reaching the hospital.
Overall, one in every five adult americans has some form of cardiovascular disease and, contrary to popular belief, it is not just the stereotypical middle-aged, overweight, heavy smoker who is a candidate for a heart attack.
On January 31, 1979, former Wimbeldon and US Open Champion Arthur Ashe suffered a career-ending heart attack. Ashe later underwent two open heart surgeries and could no longer run or play tennis for fear of further heart problems. Ashe, of course, tragically died from complications from AIDS a few years ago.
Remember world famous runner and prominent author Jim Fixx? Like Ashe, Fixx suffered a heart attack at a relatively young age. Both Ashe and Fixx were highly trained, superbly conditioned athletes' who suffered major, and in Fixx's case fatal, heart attacks.
The fact is, anyone who walks onto a tennis court is, to some extent, a potential victim. With this in mind, it is only wise to take the proper steps to acquaint yourself with the various emergency medical procedures so that in the case of an emergency such as John and Frank's, you can provide prompt, proper, and possibly life-saving care.
PREPARING FOR A SITUATION YOU HOPE NEVER ARISES
"The first thing you must do," says Stephen McKelvey, Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Westport Ct., "is to learn to recognize the signs of someone who is suffering a heart attack."
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK?
- Pain or discomfort under the breastbone, in either arm, shoulder or jaw.
- Shortness of breath.
- Severe perspiration.
- Pale complexion.
If you notice any combination of these symptoms, or if someone suffers chest discomfort that lasts longer than two minutes, call for help immediately. If the victim stops breathing, the next step
is to administer CPR.
WHAT IS CPR?
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a manual way of helping someone breath when their heart is no longer beating. When a person suffers a heart attack, their heart stops beating and thus, ceases to provide oxygen to the brain and other tissues. If the brain is deprived of oxygen for more than four or five minutes, brain death or permanent damage usually occur.
Jane Brody, in her best-selling book, The New York Times Book of Health: How to Feel Fitter, Eat Better, and Live Longer, describes CPR as "an artificial way to get oxygen-containing blood flowing to the brain and other tissues when the heart has stopped beating."
In short, CPR can prolong life until medical experts arrive on the scene and can take over. "Many victims of sudden death have what cardiologists call "hearts too good to die, meaning undamaged hearts that could have gone on beating for years if the victims circulation had been maintained until medical techniques could restore the hearts normal pumping action," says Brody.
If a person can, through the use of CPR, be helped to breath until proper medical attention arrives, they stand a much greater chance of surviving the attack.
"The first four to six minutes are critical," says Robert McManus, an Emergency Medical Services Professional. "If CPR is not started within four minutes of when the victim stops breathing, their chances of survival drop to less than 4%."
In 75% of the deaths attributed to heart attacks, the victims were stricken while in the company of others. Tragically, these bystanders, THROUGH LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, were unable to offer the victim any potentially life-saving assistance.
WHO CAN PERFORM CPR?
"Anyone who's trained," says McKelvey. "The Red Cross offers a course which is eight hours in length and will train people to perform CPR on adults, children and infants. The course includes reading material, video and practical experience on mannequins. The cost is roughly $25."
DOES THE STAFF AT YOUR CLUB KNOW CPR?
CPR is a vital asset and should be a requirement of employment at any athletic facility. In any life-threatening situation such as a heart attack, it is critical to have on-site, immediate attention. Ask the manager of your club if his staff is trained in CPR and other emergency medical techniques.
"Being properly trained in CPR as well as basic First Aid is a professional responsibility for all those involved in any aspect of the fitness industry," says Kevin Cleary, President of the ONE TO ONE FITNESS CORPORATION in Bethel, CT. Cleary, who himself has experienced a situation similar to John and Franks warns, "Don't fall into the trap of saying, it can't happen to me or at my club. It can and, at some point, probably will."
By simply placing a call to your local Red Cross you can arrange to have an instructor come to your club and in just a few hours, train your club's staff in both First Aid and CPR.
John and Frank were fortunate in that they were given every possible chance of surviving their attacks because they were surrounded by people who were fully trained in a variety of emergency medical procedures.
By being trained to deal with emergency situations you and your club will have the piece of mind of knowing that you can help someone in the event of a crisis.