High School Students Teach Life-Saving Skills in Competition

Published on in CHOP News

May 25, 2011 — More than 400 students from the School District of Philadelphia demonstrated ways to teach their peers how to save a life. The teenagers showed their novel projects for teaching skills in performing CPR and using an AED (automated external defibrillator) at an event co-sponsored May 23 by the School District and researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The winning teams were Girls High in 1st place, Douglas High School in 2nd place, and Kensington Culinary Arts in 3rd place.

Study focuses on innovation in peer education, building life-saving skills

The Student Program for Olympic Resuscitation Training in Schools (SPORTS) study was conducted by CHOP in conjunction with the School District. Fifteen of the district’s high schools were involved in the study, which focuses on the students developing innovative new ways to learn and retain the life-saving skills of CPR and AED use.

The study culminated today with the CPR/AED Olympics at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania, where the students were judged on the creativity and innovation of their novel CPR/AED programs, and their ability to acquire and retain the skills of CPR and AED use. Watch a video with highlights of the event.

About sudden cardiac arrest

“Approximately 300,000 individuals in the U.S. die each year from sudden cardiac arrest, including nearly one thousand children, many of them at school and sports events. Most of these adults and children have no symptoms prior to a sudden cardiac arrest,” said Victoria Vetter, MD, pediatric cardiologist and medical director of Youth Heart Watch at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“To protect against such tragedies and better train a generation who will have the skills to save lives using CPR and AEDs Youth Heart Watch at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia conducted this research study to help engage students in CPR and AED education.”

CHOP and Philadelphia School District make AEDs available in schools

“This is an innovative project and we are happy that many of the high schools in The School District of Philadelphia participated in creating opportunities that will help their peers learn to do CPR and use AEDs and to retain that knowledge,” said Arlene Ackerman, EdD, superintendent, School District of Philadelphia. “The District and CHOP have worked together for years to ensure the AEDs are available in our schools. The District’s Office of Health, Safety and Physical Education is committed to having AEDs readily available to schools throughout Philadelphia and to have personnel trained to use them in an emergency.”

AEDs are small, easy-to-operate devices that are extremely effective in reviving victims of sudden cardiac arrest if administered immediately after the heart stops. They are safe to operate because they are will not shock anyone whose heart is beating normally and who is not in cardiac arrest. Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan law protects people administering an AED to someone experiencing cardiac arrest.

Youth Heart Watch program

Youth Heart Watch at Children’s Hospital advocates the placement of AEDs in every school and has worked with schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware to implement AED programs and encourage placement of AEDs in schools and community gathering places throughout the U.S. In addition to AEDs, Youth Heart Watch helps schools put programs in place to educate students and staff about sudden cardiac death and to train them in the use of AEDs and CPR, so that proper care can be administered at the first sign of heart trouble. In the case of a sudden cardiac arrest, immediate care is essential.

Over the years, the School District of Philadelphia has trained more than 800 of its personnel in schools to use AEDs and perform CPR. Youth Heart Watch has provided training grants to fund CPR and AED training in the District’s middle and high schools.

The Pennsylvania legislature enacted a law eight years ago providing two AEDs per school district in the state. In 2003, Youth Heart Watch at CHOP partnered with the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers who funded AEDs for every School District of Philadelphia high school that was open at the time. The District also has AEDs available for use at all of its athletic complexes, better known as “Athletic Super Sites.”

Know the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest

Schools and families should be aware of the warning symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.

Symptoms include:

  • Fainting or severe chest pain during exercise
  • A sudden change in exercise tolerance or shortness of breath (not asthma related) during exercise
  • A sensation of rapid heart beats

A family history of early (before 35 years) sudden cardiac arrest is another important factor, as the conditions that cause sudden cardiac arrest in the young are frequently inherited, added Dr. Vetter.

Quick response needed to reverse cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest is often reversible if it’s treated within a few minutes with an AED that administers an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes, so every second counts. Application within three to five minutes of the heart stopping using an onsite AED is usually successful.

Funding for the study

The SPORTS study is supported by the American Heart Association and Laerdal Foundation for Acute Medicine.


Joey McCool Ryan, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 267-426-6070 or McCool@email.chop.edu

Fernando Gallard, Philadelphia School District, 215-400-4040 or fagallard@philasd.org