The story of Wes Leonard, a Michigan high school basketball player, along with many others, is part of what gives Dr. Brent Smith of Cleveland Medical Clinic inspiration to look out for the safety of local athletes.
Leonard die on the court due to heart complications. He needed an automated electronic defibrillator (AED), yet that AED was stored in a locked storage room, and had dead batteries.
Smith is now working to ensure that the AEDs in Cleveland schools are in proper working order and are on sidelines during sporting events.
AEDs are so user-friendly that it has the ability to tell the user exactly what to do.
"You will open it and it will start talking to you. The pads will have pictures on them to show where to put them. As soon as you put them on it will analyze the patient for you and it will tell you if you need to shock them or not," said Smith.
While all schools in Cleveland have AEDs on their campuses, Smith stresses the importance of knowing that they work correctly.
"You cannot be safe in the knowledge that you have an AED, you have to be safe in the knowledge that your AED is working," said Smith.
Smith mentioned it is best to check that an AED is working every six months and before a major sports season starts.
"If you're having a varsity athletic event you need to have it there.
"People will say 'oh, but it's baseball, it never happens' but what if it does," said Smith.
Smith also wants to be sure that coaches be prepared for the worst.
"One of my goals is, as a new town sports medicine physician, to work with them to not only ensure that, but also we need things call emergency actions plans for athletic events," said Smith.
These plans would ensure that every coach and trainer would know what to do in case of an emergency during a sporting event.
"You discuss those at least once a year, and especially before their season starts, so that, if heaven forbid the time comes, they at least know that there is a plan," said Smith.
Smith also hopes to see the Zackery Lystedt Law pass in the state of Mississippi.
Mississippi is one of three states that have not passed this law.
This law protects players from serious brain injuries due to concussions.
The law has three actions steps, educate on a yearly basis, any athlete suspected of a concussion is done for the day, and no athlete can return to play without being evaluated by a medical professional.
"An information sheet that people have to sign is enough to get information in people's hands so that it has started to change some of the ways this is handled in the states that have passed this law," said Smith.
"It wasn't passed in Washington until 2009 and in that four or five year span, it has gone nation wide.
"In that same time span you've seen attitudes change in the places that adopted it early just through giving them information," said Smith.
Smith believes that having this law actually makes it easier for coaches on the sidelines.
If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion they are done for the day and Smith said, "that takes away the coaches having to make that decision on the sidelines. That's a lot to ask of a coach in the heat of a game and so if there's any suspicion of a head injury you take them out."
Smith stressed that a concussion can occur in plays that are less dramatic than a serious blow to the head.
"There are certain things you can be tough and play through — a sprained ankle, twisted knee, bad bruise — the head is not one you should do that with because it is so vitally important to you for the rest of your life.
"It is honestly the one body area, that and the heart, that you can say there is not safe zone, you've got to be careful," said Smith.
Smith believes that by having players, parents, and coaches educated on the subject, concussions will be easier to spot and then a more serious injury can be prevented.
"If a coach can understand that if you look at that kid and something isn't right, stop right there and do what's best for the kid," said Smith.
Smith brought all of these ideas to the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday, who plans to look over what he addressed and get back with him about implementing these ideas in schools.
Smith also goes to the Cleveland School District high schools each week to check on the athletes.
"It provides them a presence they know they can rely on to be there regularly, a lot of these injuries don't need to be seen in a clinic …. it develops trust … I want these kids to be healthy," said Smith.
Smith will continue to work with the athletes of Cleveland and try to bring awareness to the preventions of serious life-ling injuries through education.