On the Loyola Blakefield campus, an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be found in every building and head athletic trainer Jeremy Parr and his staff have one on site for every competition that takes place at the Towson private school.
On April 16, when the Dons’ varsity lacrosse team was taking on McDonogh and freshman lacrosse player Peter Laake was struck in the chest by a shot, Parr and other medical personnel on hand saved Laake’s life with help from the readily available AED.
Laake was immediately diagnosed with commotio cordis, a disruption of the heart’s rhythm that results in sudden cardiac arrest.
It occurs as a result of a blow to the area of the chest directly over the heart during a precise second in the heart’s cycle.
The timely use of the AED, a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the condition and then treats it through defibrillation to allow the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm, was vital. After receiving the emergency care on the field, Baltimore County medical personnel took Laake by ambulance to an area hospital and after a series of tests, he was released over the weekend. He is doing fine and returned to school this past week.
In the days following the incident, Loyola coach Gene Ubriaco called it: “A Miracle at Hargaden Field.”
It was and so much more, according to the Dons’ trainer Parr.
“I’m a big faithful guy and that this happened — it’s extremely rare — but even more rare that it worked out in the right result. Thank God, it was all part of His will and we were all just part of the plan. We had a lot of things that went right on a bad situation,” Parr said.
“Hopefully through just general awareness and the media, we can make an impact going forward to make a difference for someone else.”
Parr emphasized the importance of proper training to be ready for the situation and the dire need to have a functional AED available at a moment’s notice, particularly for lacrosse and baseball. Most area high schools are equipped with AEDs, and it’s a requirement for all of the area school systems, public and private, that were reached by The Baltimore Sun.
The successful outcome at Loyola is an opportunity for the important awareness to be heard.
Dr. Richard Hinton, a MedStar doctor who is part of US Lacrosse’s Sport Science and Safety Committee, said the successful outcome April 16 had many necessary elements.
“I think a key thing is that certainly in sports medicine a way to look at athletic injuries is not as accidents, but as predictable occurrences as part of playing sport and you need to plan accordingly that way,” he said.
In addition to Parr, MedStar Dr. Aaron Tracy, McDonogh athletic trainer Jared Braverman and college student trainer Erin Brown also were working on the sidelines. They were on hand to help Laake along with Dr. Robert Dudas, a McDonogh parent in the stands.
“With this case, the biggest part is the concept of emergency action planning for sport, that you need to have a well-defined plan that anticipates the more common injuries and how you will address those if they happen,” Dr. Hinton said.
“The folks over at Loyola — Jeremy Parr and his group — have done a great job. The reason Jeremy and our physician are out there on the field with an AED knowing what to do is not an accident.”
In March 2000, 14-year-old Louis J. Acompora, a freshman goalie at Northport High in New York, died from commotio cordis after making a save. In 2004, Cornell senior defenseman George Boiardi died from the injury after being struck by a shot.
US Lacrosse has been a long-standing advocate for having AEDs present during all games and practices. In addition, the organization also cited the importance of chest protection equipment. Since 2000, following Acompora’s death, US Lacrosse has worked on the design, development and manufacturing of a NOCSAE performance standard chest protector called the ND200. Arriving in 2018, it is designed to reduce the risk of commotio cordis and protect lacrosse players.
Effective Jan. 1, 2021, it became mandatory equipment for goalies in US Lacrosse boys and girls youth games, boys and girls high school games and men’s and women’s college games.
At the start of 2022, the rule will apply to all field players as well.
“When you think of all the elements that need to be in place to ensure a positive outcome from a hit from a ball to the chest, it’s CPR-trained adults, it’s an athletic trainer medical personnel, it’s an AED on site that is accessible to the field with working batteries, and it’s protective equipment. That is really the environment we need,” said US Lacrosse Vice President of Lacrosse Operations Ann Kitt Carpenetti.
“We need all the help we can get to raise awareness of the availability of this product. Starting in January you have to use it, but why wouldn’t you go use it now when you know it’s available because it can save a life?”