EAP Saves Official’s Life During Colorado Basketball Game

January 27, 2022 / Player SafetySports Medicine
Licensed athletic trainers like Ashley Cowan prepare for the worst with things like an emergency action plan (EAP), but one can only be so ready for when a worst-case scenario actually arrives.

That moment came for Cowan on Jan. 4 at Bear Creek, outlined in an article from CHSSAANow.com. Below is an excerpt from that article. Near the end of the first quarter during a girls basketball game between the Bears and visiting Heritage, basketball official Harold “Woody” White collapsed on the court because the battery inside his pacemaker had died.

eapSuddenly faced with a life-threatening situation, Cowan immediately rushed to White’s aid as he gasped for air and his condition quickly worsened. With help from Jill Wapelhorsts, a Heritage parent who works as a respiratory therapist, Cowan instructed Bear Creek athletic director Zach Morris to call an ambulance and had a student-run to get the school’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED). After a shock was delivered, the pair continued to administer CPR until White was once again alert and breathing.

His life was saved.

“Initially, it was a controlled panic,” Cowan said. “I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. It’s actually happening.’ Then I kind of felt like a robot and I just went to my training. It was only just about six minutes before the paramedics arrived, but it felt like forever. As soon as he really woke up, it was just an incredible relief.

Once White had awakened, an off-duty police officer assisted Cowan in calming him until the paramedics arrived shortly after he woke up. It was the first time Cowan had been forced to act quickly and administer emergency medical procedures in order to save someone’s life, and she passed the test with flying colors. So did the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) at Bear Creek.

“I’m just so glad that everything turned out OK,” she said.

White has ventricular tachycardia and has had other scary moments in the past. This time around, we were amazed at the readiness of the personnel at Bear Creek and how quickly they executed the school’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Thanks to that readiness level, White was able to return to Bear Creek as a spectator on Monday night to watch the Bears’ make-up game with Heritage.

“It was all kind of a blur but watching the film, Ashley ran right across the court and dealt with me. It was really impressive,” White said. “The fast-acting stuff, I really appreciated it. It was all really quick and effective, and I appreciate everything they did for me. I’m real thankful to be here today and I’m really thankful for what they’ve done for me.”

The personnel at Kent Denver were also forced to implement the school’s Emergency Action Plan during a basketball game on Monday night after athletic director Jeff Hollway noticed one of that game’s officials experiencing chest pains. The athletic training staff checked out the official and acted quickly, having him sent to the hospital where he ended up having emergency surgery and is reportedly in stable condition.

Events like these, while uncommon, are a reminder of just how important Venue Specific Emergency Action Plans (EAP) are. To create effective and potentially lifesaving plans, Colorado’s schools can utilize the template and checklist on the SMAC Page on CHSAANow or can upload a more in-depth, specific school or district plan.

The CHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, made up of top physicians, athletic trainers, and school personnel, has been at the forefront of implementing many safety requirements, including the need for Venue Specific Emergency Action Plans. CHSAA has worked with the National Federation of State High School Associations and outside agencies to provide Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), a lifesaving machine used to check a person’s heart rhythm, to member schools.

“Emergency Action Plans (EAP) don’t work without our amazing administration, athletic trainers, coaches, school personnel, and even students,” said CHSAA assistant commissioner Jenn Roberts Uhlig, who oversees the CHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. “The developing, reviewing, and executing must be planned and practiced. It takes a collective group to implement such plans.”

The SMAC committee continues to focus on student safety and a standard level of care.

For any sports medicine-related information, please visit SMAC Page on CHSAANow.