Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Paul Wright | The importance of PPEs

Published:Tuesday | February 12, 2019 | 12:11 AM

The news of the collapse of our number-one distance runner, Kemoy Campbell, is particularly shocking, but in the reality of recent collapses of young, fit athletes, the anguished cry of friends, fans and relatives remains the same: ‘Could we, should we have known?’

Jamaican sports fans were just beginning to understand and sympathise with the Jamaica College family, whose young and promising footballer Rajheme Thompson collapsed at a football game and is showing positive signs of recovery at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Center. Young Thompson is diagnosed as having suffered a stroke (a bleed in the brain), and with the support of the medical team and corporate Jamaica, he is expected to do well. The collapse of Kemoy Campbell seems to be different. Running as a pacesetter in a 3,000m race at the Millrose Games in New York, video replays of the incident reveal a sudden fall to the running surface just as he was passing the 1,000m mark. One gets the impression that he was about to leave the track (as pacesetters usually do) when he fell. He received medical attention at trackside (for over 30 minutes), and, as his agent reports, a defibrillator was used to assist in his revival. Kemoy is now in a medically induced coma in a nearby hospital.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is now an essential part of the medical kit of those who are tasked with the care of athletes at major events, be it track and field, football, netball, basketball, rugby union, rugby league, or hockey, because those who arrange these events have a duty of care to the participants that transcends the economics of what is expected of the authorities. When an athlete collapses at an event, the medical team will do an immediate assessment of the condition of the athlete. When the decision to use the AED is made, the instrument is programmed to work ONLY if there is an unusual and life-threatening cardiac condition. The success of its use is demonstrated by the transport of a living, breathing athlete to a nearby tertiary hospital. Therefore, it is reasonable to surmise that Kemoy’s life was saved on the tarmac of the track!

To be sure, no one is expected to be able to predict who will have a catastrophic collapse while being involved in sports. However, a pre participation examination (PPE) that includes a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) protocol is of major importance to anyone who contemplates sport participation. What this examination does is to identify any athlete, male or female, with a medical condition that will need further investigation. A condition that is treatable may be identified, or in some cases, a change of sport or activity is strongly recommended in order to preserve life.

A complete physical examination

For us in Jamaica, a PPE is usually the ONLY time when an athlete has a complete physical examination, comprising a comprehensive history, with the athlete and a parent or guardian present if the athlete is below the age of 18. This is so because there are questions that will require truthful answers that the youngster may genuinely not know. For example “Has any member of the family died of a heart-related condition before the age of 50?” Parents or guardians will know the answer, while a child may not. Locally, we seek medical attention for a specific complaint. A cold that persists, an accident, or some other condition that is worrying. At the medical facility, the complaint is diagnosed and treated only. With a PPE, visual, dental, metabolic, musculoskeletal, and sometimes mental conditions are identified, and treatment or support mandated. Therefore, this is another call for ALL athletes, or those contemplating athletic activity, even jogging, to have a PPE that includes an SCA. IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH IT. Who knows if Kemoy and Rajheme had a similar comprehensive examination in the past? A word to the wise is usually sufficient. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these two outstanding athletes. A full and complete recovery is all we ask.