MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Starting this school year, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act will take effect in Alabama. It aims to equip parents, coaches and student athletes with the tools to best respond to sudden cardiac arrest.
Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika) sponsored the bill. He’s spent much of his life as an athlete — even playing professionally in the Canadian Football League.
“Being an athlete, you experience many things,” Gray said. “But sudden cardiac arrest was like new to me.”
Gray said after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest in January, he wanted to ensure Alabama had protocols in place for student athletes.
He said the main feature of his law requires coaches go through sudden cardiac arrest training every two years in addition to their CPR and AED certification.
“I wanted the coaches to be up to date on signs, symptoms and best practices on how to engage with sudden cardiac arrest,” Gray said.
The law also requires parents acknowledge the risks of cardiac arrest and sign off on their child playing sports. It also aims to educate the athletes about it.
Gray said in researching this bill he learned some rural schools in the state don’t have trainers. He said the more people informed about how to respond to it, the better.
“Our greatest asset of why people even come to Alabama or like Alabama is sports,” Gray said. “We have to protect our asset, and those are the players,”
UAB Sports and Exercise Medicine Dr. Irfan Asif said the incident rate for cardiac arrest is about one in every 50,000 for college athletes and one in every 80,000 for high school athletes.
He said survival chances decrease 10% every minute someone doesn’t get a defibrillator.
“It is important for us to pay attention and then to really have emergency action plans to rehearse those so that when someone does go down, you can get to them quickly,” Asif said.
Gray said this law is just the beginning. His next aim is to ensure all schools have enough defibrillators within a three-minute retrieval radius to where teams are playing.
He said that will require more funding from the legislature, but it’s the next step. The law applies to coaches of all sports. It passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature.
Those with the Alabama High School Athletic Assocation also support the law. AHSAA Communications Director Ron Ingram said it largely codifies into state law training requirements the AHSAA already has in place for coaches.