Athletes Saving Athletes to hold ‘Relay the Message’ walk/run fundraiser in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

The Athletes Saving Athletes event, “Relay the Message” walk/run, will be held at Cathedral Catholic High School on Sunday, March 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is open to all ages of the public to see how many laps they can walk or run in an hour, and raise funds and awareness about Advocates for Injured Athletes and the importance of athletic training. At the event there will also be demonstrations on CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

Athletes Saving Athletes was created by Advocates for Injured Athletes, an organization co-founded by Beth Mallon and her son Tommy after Tommy suffered a life-threatening neck fracture in 2009 while playing lacrosse at Santa Fe Christian School.

Student athletes are nominated to attend the day-long program to learn how they could help save a life in the event of head and neck injuries, sudden cardiac arrest, heat illness, diabetes and asthma. The program started in March of 2012 and has trained more than 2,300 athletes across San Diego County, including locally at Cathedral, Torrey Pines High, Canyon Crest Academy and Santa Fe Christian.

“The ASA program touches upon many different aspects that are vital to athletic safety. Demonstrations in CPR performance and AED use left me with knowledge I will carry throughout the future, both on and off the field,” said Russell Reed, a Torrey Pines sophomore who has participated in crew, volleyball and track and field.

That off-the-field awareness was put on display last year when Cathedral Catholic student Trevor Brown was able to perform CPR on a stranger who had a cardiac event at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center. He had learned CPR just two weeks before at the ASA seminar.

“We’ve had kids come back from away games and club events and say they saw things happen and they knew to tell the coach,” said Tara Hall, head athletic trainer at Cathedral Catholic. “Another kid went on a college visit and walked into the gym and looked to see where the AED was… They are more aware.”

Hall and Allison Weatherford cover all the sports at Cathedral. After school last week, various athletes were coming into the school’s weight and training room and popping up on the table for the trainers to tape ankles and treat other minor injuries for games and practices.

To have this kind of resource at the high school level is definitely unique, Hall said.

“Part of what ASA strongly advocates is to have certified athletic trainers in every school, which is such a big obstacle for many. That’s why they did the branch-off program to make athletes more aware of what’s going on,” Hall said. “ASA is an awesome program so whatever we can do to get the word out and make it available for more schools, we will do whatever we can.”

Will Howard, a sophomore lacrosse player, went through ASA at Cathedral last spring and the impact was lasting.

“That course was really eye opening,” Will said. “What really spoke to me is that when Tommy was originally injured, it was his friend that responded first and knew to tell him to stay down. That saved his life and that’s what this program meant to me, that you can save a life.”

Over the summer, Will knew he would be participating in a club lacrosse trip to the East Coast where there would not be trainers on the field so with the help of his mom, Kim, got ASA to come and do a training for 25 of his lacrosse teammates.

Kim had heard of ASA through a Teen Volunteers in Action presentation by Mallon about what she went through with Tommy’s accident and her mission to prevent injuries and save lives with Advocates for Injured Athletes.

“I’d never had that type of reaction to a speaker before, I was so moved and so inspired because I saw it was so important,” Howard said. “As a mom of a kid who plays sports, I had to be involved.”

On that summer trip to Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Will and his teammates faced some intense humidity and heat and because of ASA they knew how to prepare. Three days out, they started drinking lots of water because they learned how important it is to be well hydrated before and during an event in those conditions.

Howard said the boys really learned to take ownership of their own safety and that helped put her a little more at ease, that they knew the right thing to do. Split seconds made the difference in Tommy’s surviving and walking; be it a professional trainer, coach or teammate it’s important that people know how to respond during an incident.

To register for the event, visit active.com. For more information, visit injuredathletes.org.

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