Legislation would require state-funded defibrillators at high school athletic events

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Rep. John Fizgerald, D-Wyoming

Michigan House of Representatives

Rep. John Fizgerald, D-Wyoming

Capital News Service

LANSING – In February, 18-year-old Detroit Northwestern High School athlete Cartier Woods died a week after he suffered cardiac arrest during a basketball game, according to the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Woods immediately received CPR while EMTs were en route to the gym. No automatic external defibrillator, or AED, was present, according to Pierre Brooks, the coach of the opposing team, Detroit Frederick Douglass Academy.

Now lawmakers are considering a proposal to require all public and charter school coaches and assistant coaches to add AED training to the already mandatory CPR training..

Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming, has introduced legislation to require schools to have a cardiac emergency response plan to avoid such situations. It has passed the House and is awaiting Senate action. 

“The bill is to implement a cardiac emergency response plan, which would be a formalized plan of who is responding, what are their duties and what their responsibilities are in case of a cardiac emergency,” said Fitzgerald.

“The school will be allowed to assign specific personnel to determine who is included in their response team,” he said. 

Fitzgerald said that having trained persons on site is the goal, not just head coaches but other faculty as well.

The sponsor of a related bill, Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, talked about what training and the costs will look like if the legislation passes. 

“The AED training will piggyback on the yearly CPR training that is already required for coaches. There will be no extra cost for the additional training,” he said. 

Carter referred to a January 2023 incident when Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills collapsed due to cardiac arrest during a football game. Hamlin was revived on the field by an AED and has since fully recovered, according to the National Football League. 

“In athletics, the accessibility of having an AED close by means everything. Every minute past three minutes, 10% is lost on a full recovery,” Carter said. 

Carter said the state will cover all costs of the AED machines if the legislation passes.

Geoff Kimmerly, the communications director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said it’s important for schools to have AED machines, and not just for sports.

“One child passing is too many, which is why our goal through our training is that at least somebody at every practice or game has the proper training,” Kimmerly said. 

“This could not just benefit the athletes, but it could also protect spectators, officials and coaches.”

Kimmerly added that state funding would be crucial in getting AEDs into more schools. 

A 15-year-old student-athlete from Monroe High School in Rochester, N.Y., was brought back to life by an AED after he suffered cardiac arrest. He was in a basketball game when he collapsed and was revived by two coaches who were trained in CPR and the use of the AED machine that saved his life, according to News10NBC.

Supporters of the legislation include the state Department of Education, the Detroit Lions, the Michigan State Medical Society, the Michigan Athletic Trainer’s Society and the American Heart Association.

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