Devices make high school athletics safer

Larry D'Antoni (right) of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center present an automatic external defibrillator to members of the Thibodaux High athletic department on Tuesday. (Photo by Perry Pitre/Correspondent)

Fifteen area schools just got a little safer.

The increased safety is courtesy of a device called an automatic external defibrillator, or AED. These backpack-sized units allow people with little or no training to apply potentially live-saving defibrillation to people having cardiac events.

The automatic external defibrillator's are courtesy of the Sports Medicine Center of Thibodaux Regional, who presented the units to area high school athletic directors, coaches and trainers at a dinner Tuesday night at Fremin's in Thibodaux.

Sports Medicine Coordinator Larry D'Antoni said the idea came to him at a meeting of high school athletic trainers in Monroe over the summer, during a discussion of new state laws that mandated schools acquire automatic external defibrillator's if financially possible.

"It wasn't mandated, but the schools had to get it if they could afford it," D'Antoni said. "Dealing with the high schools in this area the last couple of years, I knew it would be tough for them to afford it. So I talked to our CEO, Greg Stock, and said it would be a good idea if we sponsored these for the schools, to help out our area schools and give back to the community. And he agreed."

Central Lafourche athletic trainer Ed Bice said the automatic external defibrillators represent "another tool in (a trainer's) arsenal."

"As trainers, we're trained to use the AED's, and we've actually been trying to get them into the schools for some time now," Bice said. "Whether it's an athlete or people in the stands, it's another tool to help people."

Vandebilt Catholic trainer Amelia Mason said she was excited.

"As a health care provider, having an AED at my immediate disposal is a top priority," Mason said.

Mason said the automatic external defibrillator represents another progression in a field that has seen increased attention lately due to recent discoveries about the effects of concussions.

"I'm an instructor at Nicholls, and I can tell you the way we're teaching now is different than how I was taught just 10 years ago," Mason said. "The way you handle concussions and cervical spine injuries, the way equipment is being used, tacking techniques, there have been across the board changes."

Bice said awareness of these issues is the biggest change he's seen.

"We're understanding more about the science of concussions," Bice said. "And we're expanding that awareness to the coaches, athletes, and their parents."

Schools receiving the automatic external defibrillator's were H.L. Bourgeois, Central Catholic of Morgan City, Central Lafourche, Covenant Christian Academy, Ellender, Houma Christian, Lutcher, Riverside Academy, South Lafourche, South Terrebonne, St. James, Terrebonne, Thibodaux, Vandebilt Catholic and E. D. White Catholic.

NFL analyst Mike Detillier, a Raeland native, was the guest speaker at the event.