Harmon represents AMSSM at NATA Sudden Death Task Force

By: Carly Day, M.D. 
Past AMSSM President Kim Harmon, M.D., represented AMSSM at the Inter-Association Task Force: Preventing Sudden Death in Sport by Addressing Strength and Conditioning Sessions from Jan. 19-20 in Colorado Springs, CO. The task force was sponsored by NATA. Other AMSSM members attending and/or representing other organizations included Jonathan Drezner, M.D.; Sourav Poddar, M.D. and Jolie Holschen, M.D. The collaborative meeting included participants from NATA, NCAA, ACSM, ACEP, NASC, USOC, AOSSM, AOASM, among others. Three key areas were discussed in detail - cardiac, exertional heat injury, and exertional sickling. A position statement will be developed as an outcome from the meeting.

Dr. Harmon is board certified in family medicine with a CAQ in sports medicine and currently works at The University of Washington.  She is the director of the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship and covers football as well as the women's basketball team. She agreed to share some thoughts about serving on the task force.

Q: For those of us who have never been on a task force, can you tell us what the meeting was like?  How do they get the opinions of so many people and summarize them into a formal position?
A: There are a number of different ways that this has been done at task forces I have been a part of.  At this one there were a number of speakers on different topics and from different fields with time for discussion at the end of each talk.  Toward the end of the conference there was a block of time to discuss important take home points and the messages and concepts that the group thought were important to get out. There was good back and forth discussion of people with different viewpoints but in most cases common ground was found.

Q: What was something you learned at the meeting that you didn't know before you went?
A: I didn't know a lot about the different strength and conditioning accreditation organizations and how the certification worked.

Q: What topic seemed to cause the most debate at this meeting?  
A: The most difficult question was how to best educate coaches and staff.  Sudden death often occurs at practices or conditioning sessions where there are no medical providers.

Q: What is one aspect of preventing sudden death in athletes that you think every sports medicine physician should know?
A: Every school should have an emergency action plan that they practice annually with medical providers, strength and conditioning staff and coaches.

Following the meeting, Dr. Drezner also shared: “Some very interesting and troubling stories were shared about the circumstances surrounding athlete deaths during strength and conditioning, the delay in recognizing athletes in distress, and the lack of appropriate emergency planning.  I think the position statement generated from this meeting will highlight several areas with the potential to prevent these largely "preventable" deaths.  More to come as this moves forward.”

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