Friday, April 13, 2012

CPR training empowers marathoners

BASIC TRAINING: Runners can learn the basics of hands-only CPR during the BAA expo.

26.2 MILES. Nearly 500,000 spectators. Heartbreak Hill. It’s the time of the year when runners and spectators from across the globe will pack the streets of Boston for the world’s oldest annual marathon.

More than 27,000 runners will hit the pavement on Marathon Monday, including 140 individuals running to raise funds for the MGH. Before the big day, runners, family members and spectators will have the opportunity to attend the first-ever CPR educational sessions on April 14 and 15 as part of the Boston Athletic Association’s (BAA) Health and Fitness Expo. Led by Aaron Baggish, MD, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program in the MGH Heart Center and an on-site cardiologist for the marathon, the hands-only CPR sessions will take place on both days at 9:30 am, 11 am and 2:30 pm at the World Trade Center in South Boston.

Baggish will hold the sessions with the help of volunteers – many from the MGH Heart Center – in the hope of reaching more than 1,000 runners. The program is part of a partnership with the BAA, the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

“Our goal is to teach as many runners as possible the basics of hands-only CPR, and our vision is to have enough CPR-trained runners on the course that every runner is close to someone who can help in the event of an emergency,” says Baggish.

Hands-only CPR is the current standard of care for nonmedical professionals when an adult goes into sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. It involves starting chest compression immediately and continuing until trained medical personnel arrive. In most scenarios it has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR, which includes breaths along with compressions.

Baggish says that, although cardiac arrest is rare at marathons and half-marathons, the quick response of event organizers, fellow runners and spectators can make the difference whether a runner survives cardiac arrest. In the Jan. 12 New England Journal of Medicine, Baggish and his colleagues published findings that – while participation in marathons and half-marathons is at an all-time high – most runners who experience cardiac arrest during these races have undiagnosed, pre-existing cardiac abnormalities. The study identified bystander-initiated CPR as a key factor in patient survival.

“It’s important people know the basics of CPR, and the single best way to do that is to teach hands-only CPR,” says Baggish. “Hands-only CPR is safe, easy to learn and very effective; and it allows bystanders to bridge the gap from the time of cardiac arrest to the time of arrival of definitive medical care.”

For more information about the hands-only CPR sessions, email

BAA hands-only CPR video featuring Baggish

Read more articles from the 4/13/12 Hotline issue.




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