Teams staffed for emergency
Toronto pro clubs ready to handle Fischer-like crisis Detroit blueliner ‘cracking jokes,’ says Wings GM
Toronto’s four major pro sports teams say they’re ready to handle a medical emergency like the one that nearly killed Red Wings defenceman Jiri Fischer.
Fischer was recovering in hospital yesterday — “ He’s actually cracking some jokes,” said team doctor Tony Colucci — a day after his heart appeared to stop on the bench during a game. Colucci used a defibrillator and performed CPR on Fischer.
Officials with the Leafs, Raptors, Jays and Argos say team doctors and emergency personnel would have responded similarly.
“ We’re probably in good shape to handle all the eventualities but we’ll double- check when we review everything prior to spring training,” said Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey. “ If it’s life- threatening, it can be the doctors or the paramedics ( who respond initially). For regular injuries, the paramedics handle it. They’re well- trained. In some cases, they might be better than doctors; they handle trauma all day.” There have been concerns about how Toronto teams deal with medical emergencies since 2003, when Canadian doctors working with NHL, NBA and major league baseball teams lost access to national group medical malpractice insurance. But Leafs GM John Ferguson said team doctors — as well as trainers and on- site emergency medical service ( EMS) units — could administer care in the advent of a Fischer- like situation at the Air Canada Centre. Spokesman for the Raptors and Argos also said yesterday that their team doctors are not restricted in how they respond to an ailing athlete. The question of limitations on team physicians arose last May when Jays catcher Gregg Zaun was knocked unconscious on the field at the Rogers Centre after a knee-to-head collision. Zaun was immediately treated by team trainers and staff from the Parkview Emergency Service, paramedics hired in 2003 by the Jays for home games. But Dr. Erin Boynton, the Jays’ orthopaedic consultant and a consultant to the Leafs and Marlies this season, went to Zaun’s side, as did Dr. Noah Forman, the on- site physician at the Rogers Centre at the time and now the Leafs’ medical director. The Jays’ Dr. Ron Taylor said last night that team physicians are performing exactly as they did prior to the withdrawal of the malpractice insurance. “ There are no restrictions on the quality of care,” he said.
Ferguson said the timing of Fischer’s ailment was, if anything, fortunate.
“ I can tell you Jiri Fischer is a lot better off having the condition he had on the bench in a game than anywhere else . . . that’s the level of care our athletes are afforded,” he said.
Fischer, 25, began having convulsions on the bench late in the first period of a game against Nashville. Colucci wasn’t able to detect a pulse after Fischer collapsed and an auto defibrillator was used on Fischer.
After performing CPR, Colucci said he detected a good pulse and Fischer was taken by ambulance to hospital. Colucci said Fischer’s heart might have stopped, but he didn’t know for how long. Fischer’s blood pressure and heart rate were stable by the time he got to the hospital. “ There’s no way to speculate on what triggered it,” Colucci said. The team had announced to the crowd Monday night that Fischer had had a seizure, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock later said Fischer’s heart had to be restarted.
“ His heart was stopped,” Babcock said.
Yesterday, when asked how long Fischer’s heart had stopped, Colucci said: “ Sometimes when you’re feeling for a pulse you can’t really say did it stop, or does he have a very weak, thready pulse.” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said Fischer was “doing very, very well” yesterday in a Detroit hospital. But Colucci said he didn’t know how long the player would remain there or when Fischer could play again.
Fischer was diagnosed with a heart abnormality in September 2002, causing him to miss two days of practice. Colucci said that tests were being conducted to determine whether the convulsions were related to the abnormality. The Red Wings practised yesterday ahead of tonight’s home game against Colorado. Afterward, players and Babcock said their thoughts remained with Fischer.
“ You just think about how bad Jiri Fischer would like to be playing hockey,” Babcock said. “ We have that chance. We better make good on that chance.”
A worried Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock steps on to the bench as team physician Dr. Tony Colucci, background, performs CPR on stricken defenceman Jiri Fischer.