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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Tips to Help You Be Prepared in a Heart Emergency

Sudden cardiac arrest is something we all need to know about. Here is netball coach Christine Prokaza’s life-saving advice for coaches – which she followed precisely on the day one of her players experienced a cardiac arrest at a netball tournament. Christine and her fellow coaches’ knowledge and preparedness was critical, helping them save her life

Effective action within the first minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest can increase someone’s chance of survival by up to 50%.

Christine gives a harrowing step-by-step account of what happened to 15-year-old netballer Saskia Holland in our accompanying article Sudden Cardiac Arrest: A Coach’s Story, detailing how the swift and effective actions of coaches saved her life.

If you would struggle to know how to respond if someone had a sudden cardiac arrest in front of you, then the tips below will help build your knowledge and confidence.​

  1. Risk Assessment: Plan with others for an emergency – know who would do what (if you have people around you then use them). This might even involve squad players. 
  2. Know where your nearest defib machine is and how you would access it. Anywhere I coach or play, this is the first thing I look for, and if it’s locked away, I ask for it to be unlocked, or to be provided with the code. 
  3. Always have your mobile on you and make sure it’s charged.
  4. If you’re on your own with a young group use the hands-free speaker on your mobile so you can start CPR while speaking to ambulance control/999.
  5. Refresh your skills often: I’m a fully qualified first aider and I regularly refresh my knowledge on CPR and defib use. It is always better to be reminded often than not at all.
  1. Don’t hesitate, just get on with it: My biggest piece of advice is not to dither. You don’t have time to wonder if or what you should do. Just get on and do something. Call 999, they help you over the phone; CPR is vital initially and use a defibrillator if there’s no sign of breathing. The machine tells you exactly what to do and if the person needs a shock; they are the easiest things in the world to use.
  2. Support after the event: Experiencing something like this stays with everyone involved for a lifetime. After the incident the players were offered individual and group counselling. The players were also offered training in CPR and using a defibrillator but some of the parents felt it was too soon after the event. This will be reviewed.
  3. Do a Risk Assessment for the players’ return: Saskia came back to training after three months but only after I’d asked for a care plan from her consultant. I shared this with all the coaches and officials at the club and her squad, so they knew exactly what to do if Saskia collapsed again.
  4. Some of the players didn’t want to play in the first Regional league match after the tournament. Respect this.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Digital Toolkit

Learn to be quick, be smart and restart a heart with our life-saving digital learning toolkit that will enable you to act swiftly and effectively in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

Take a look

Related Resources

  • A Cause Close to my Heart – Martin Johnson on the Importance of Sudden Cardiac Arrest Training

  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest: The Story of One Ordinary Joe and his Extraordinary Legacy

  • The Team of ‘Angels’ Who Gave Fabrice Muamba a Second Shot at Life


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UK Coaching Team