life & deathAthletic trainers play a vital role in protecting the active and saving lives, since they’re often the first health care professionals to prevent and treat injuries at school and professional sports practices and games. In addition to managing injury prevention, rehab and common sports injuries like concussions, sprains, strains and dislocations, athletic trainers also execute on-site emergency care at the scene of an accident or catastrophic event.

Given the gravity of the circumstances they’re charged with overseeing, it’s critical that athletic trainers are prepared to make the right decision at a moment’s notice.

Here, we highlight Niki Dehner, a certified athletic trainer with Francis W. Parker School in San Diego, who was directly involved in a lifesaving event – one that could have gone terribly wrong had she not had the proper education and training.

Niki Dehner

As a high school student, Niki Dehner already knew she wanted to be an athletic trainer. After taking introductory courses and visiting a summer camp that taught the basics of the profession, she was hooked. “I love helping people, and enjoyed learning about injury prevention and treatment and how it could be applied to really make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

Dehner went on to earn her bachelor’s from East Carolina University, and her master’s from Western Michigan University in physical education and athletic training. A certified athletic trainer for 16 years, Dehner was well-prepared when a teacher experienced a life-threatening event during a football game…

“He was managing the scoreboard and just collapsed at the top of the stands,” she said. Hearing her name yelled from the stands, she ran to assess the situation and found parents administering CPR. “Fortunately, they were trained in CPR and knew what they were doing.”

Jumping into action, Dehner yelled for a bystander to call 911, as she ran to retrieve the AED that she had strategically placed on the field. “I applied the AED, administered a shock and instructed the parents to begin CPR again.”

The ambulance arrived soon thereafter and took over while Dehner cleared the stands and moved the crowd to a neutral location, as the teacher was transported to the hospital. Dehner credits the emergency action plan she created for the school with saving the man’s life, from what was later determined to be sudden cardiac arrest.

“I could not have asked for a smoother emergency situation,” she said. “From calling 911, to notifying security, directing the ambulance and organizing fans and students, everything was executed efficiently.”

After making a full recovery, the teacher is back to instructing and “being his usual funny self.”

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