Medical experts stress importance of CPR training after boy dies during football practice

The family of a 12-year-old boy who collapsed and died after football practice says they are fighting for changes to be made regarding regulations for youth sports programs that are not affiliated with schools.

News 12 Staff

Feb 18, 2023, 3:55 AM

Updated 523 days ago

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The family of a 12-year-old boy who collapsed and died after football practice says they are fighting for changes to be made regarding regulations for youth sports programs that are not affiliated with schools.
Elijah Brown-Garcia died on Feb. 10 while doing football drills. None of the coaches or parents on the field at the time of the incident knew CPR. The family also claims that it took an ambulance 30 minutes to arrive.
“When the coach called me [on Tuesday he said,] ‘I’m so sorry. None of us are CPR certified. Now that this is a loss, we are all going to get CPR certified,” says Raven Brown, the boy’s mother.
Brown-Garcia was part of the Essex County Predators – a team owned by Bloomfield-based Big 21.
There are no requirements for sports programs not affiliated with schools to have CPR training. But medical experts say that this could make a difference between life and death.
“In this day and age, to not have an AED or defibrillator on the field…It’s hard to imagine there’s not an organized sport that doesn’t have an AED ready to go or doesn’t know how to do CPR,” says Dr. Mitchel Alpert.
A Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation Form is also required by the state for students in grades 6-12 participating in a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural athletic team or squad. This isn't required for independent sports teams.
“The pediatrician or primary care [doctor] doing the physical has to go through a checklist. And if you don't make the checklist, if something goes wrong on the checklist, chest pain, family history, dizziness, passing out, rapid heart rates - then a referral will be given,” Alpert says.
That referral is for a cardiac screening. Brown-Garcia’s cause of death has not yet been determined. His mother told News 12 on Wednesday that he did not have any previous medical issues.
“If there is no family history and there is no reason to believe that there is something going on, he never had symptoms, no genetic issues - he is going to be sent right on the field. And that's where you get the backend. Once something went wrong, was there an AED?” says Alpert
Medical Incidents of young athletes collapsing in the middle of sports-related activities have recently sparked into the public eye. It has also happened even at the professional level.
“If you remember from about a month ago the NFL Player [Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin]. You know he is getting million-dollar screening and he still collapsed on the field and what saved him? The backend, the AED,” Alpert says.
Alpert says that it is not feasible to cardiac screen every young athlete if he or she doesn’t present any symptoms. But he says that taking the right measurements during practices or at games can save lives.


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