Automated external defibrillator and emergency action plan preparedness amongst masters athletes

Phys Sportsmed. 2023 Jun;51(3):240-246. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2022.2036079. Epub 2022 Feb 11.


Objectives: Sudden cardiac arrest/death (SCA/D) is the leading medical cause of death in athletes. Masters athletes (≥35 years old) are increasing in numbers and are responsible for the vast majority of sport-related SCDs. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and emergency action plans (EAPs) have been shown to unequivocally reduce SCD, however, their prevalence in masters athletics remains unknown. We sought to identify the perceived AED accessibility and EAP preparedness amongst a group of masters athletes.

Methods: A 40-item survey was sent to 735 master athletes identified through the Masters Athlete Screening Study. Participants were athletes with no known significant cardiac history. The survey inquired on the availability and location of AEDs within exercise settings, the presence of EAPs, and participants' cardiac concerns.

Results: Sixty-eight percent of athletes completed the survey. Ninety-seven percent and 99% of athletes believed CPR and AEDs were effective at saving lives, respectively. Thirty-eight percent of athletes were aware of an AED in proximity to where they exercise, with 40% aware of one available during competition events, and 28% during training events. Only 10% of athletes were aware of an EAP active in their place of exercise. Half of the athletes perceive their risk of cardiac arrest during exercise to be ≤0.5 in 100,000.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that nearly all athletes believe CPR and AED are effective at saving lives, but only a minority are aware of an AED near their place of exercise, with even fewer aware of an active EAP. Master athletes underestimate their own risk for exercise-related cardiac events, affirming the importance of educating masters athletes on their increased cardiac risk and the importance of EAPs.

Keywords: Athletes; automated external defibrillator; cardiopulmonary resuscitation; emergency action plan; sudden cardiac death.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Defibrillators
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Humans
  • Sports*