ALBANY – The Albany County Legislature and Sheriff’s Department are collaborating on a pilot program that aims to get life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs) into the hands of local Little Leagues.
The initial investment of $9,700 from the Legislature was used to purchase four AED devices. The first one was distributed to Green Island Little League last month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics website states that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in young athletes in the United States – resulting in one death in a high school student every 3 days.
Sudden cardiac arrest can occur after an athlete is hit in the chest.
“In most cases, the cause is a baseball, hockey puck or lacrosse ball hitting the left side of your chest. Immediate CPR provides your best chance of surviving,” according to the AAP.
AEDs are lightweight, portable medical devices that analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to re-establish an effective heart rhythm if necessary, in the event of cardiac arrest.
“I’d like to see every youth sports league have an AED,” Albany County Legislator Sean Ward said.
Ward, Green Island’s representative, approached Andrew Joyce, chairman of the Albany County Legislature, after receiving requests from two leagues about the possibility of funding for AEDs. Joyce was receptive to piloting the idea and pledged to outfit all Little Leagues if there’s interest and then find the appropriate funding.
“As a dad of a Little League player, the dangers inherent with the sport, as witnessed here locally and on the national stage … are always in the back of our minds,” said Joyce.
Albany County is no stranger to SCA events.
In the past 12 months, a referee and a coach each suffered a cardiac event on the playing surface during a game. In 2012, an 11-year-old Colonie Little Leaguer was hit by a pitch and revived after going into cardiac arrest.
The case for AEDs on site at sporting events was highlighted in January when Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin was revived on the field after collapsing.
According to the American Heart Association, survival from cardiac arrest decreases 10 percent for every minute fibrillation is delayed. Survival rates as high as 90 percent are possible if an AED is used with a minute of collapse.
“The more AEDs and CPR-trained individuals we get at the baseball fields will help make our little league fields the safest in the nation,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.
These simple, and easy-to-use, life-saving devices can be cost-prohibitive, however, for smaller community organizations, including youth sports leagues, in addition to already providing equipment to kids in need.
The average price for one AED ranges from $1,250-$2,500.
“There are several different types of AEDs. The units we were able to purchase with the Legislature’s funding are good, but I’m working on finding programs that would allow us to purchase in higher volume for less,” Apple said.
The Sheriff’s Department will help distribute the AEDs and provide the initial training to Little League coaches on how to use the devices.
“We already team up with local ambulances and fire departments to provide EMS services and have purchased AEDs for several smaller EMS squads who couldn’t afford them a few years ago, so it made sense to get involved with this pilot,” Apple said.
According to Apple, maintenance checks on the AEDs, which carry a two-year warranty, will be conducted by the EMS agency servicing the towns where the Little League programs are located.
Interested Little League programs should contact their Albany County Legislature directly to participate in the pilot program.