Cardiac Arrest! Saving the Life of a Hockey Player

Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada

Knowing what to do in the event of cardiac arrest can make the difference between life and death


By Warren Tabachnick

A few years back, Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley, formerly of the Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins, collapsed on the bench in the first period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Peverley was rushed to the hospital, and (not surprisingly) as he regained consciousness he asked doctors if he could go back and play.

In recreational hockey, the nature of the game has players taking 1.5- to 3-minute shifts of high- intensity skating on the ice, and 2 to 5 minutes off the ice throughout the 45 to 60 minutes of play. In addition, each period is separated by a short break in play. Although the risk of a heart attack is far outweighed by the benefits of playing hockey, it is vital to know what to do if a player goes down on the ice.

Often confused with a heart attack, cardiac arrest is a sudden interruption of heart function, sort of like an electrical problem. A heart attack, on the other hand, is caused by a blockage, similar to a plumbing problem.

According to Dr. Mike Evans, a former staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Toronto, following are the proper steps to take when confronted with this type of situation. (Needless to say, speed is vital in saving a life.)

  • Have someone call 911
  • Begin CPR: Chest compressions (100 per minute)
  • Locate an automated external defibrillator (AED). Follow the audible instructions when the AED is turned on.

The AED delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart, which can stop an irregular heart rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume following a sudden cardiac arrest.

For information on this and other conditions that affect hockey players, visit Dr. Mike Evans at The Locker Room Doctor website.

The video below shows what to do if ever you find yourself in this situation.


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