Athletic trainer’s quick response helps save player who collapsed at AAU tournament

When Under Armour Summer Jam tournament director Antonio Curro sprinted onto the court Wednesday night in Milwaukee with a defibrillator under his arm, he immediately feared the worst.

The player from the Inland Empire 17U team who had just collapsed during a timeout was having trouble breathing. An athletic trainer who arrived on the scene just before Curro was already monitoring the boy's heart rate and checking for a pulse

Thankfully for 18-year-old Silas Gaines, Curro and the athletic trainer responded rapidly enough to make sure a scary situation had a happy ending. The trainer used the defibrillator to restore Gaines' heart rate to normal and helped him regain his breath before paramedics arrived to transport him to a Milwaukee-area hospital.

"I'm so thankful our training staff was there immediately, that there was a working defibrillator within the facility and that everyone involved worked as a team," Curro said. "To see somebody you literally believe is gone in front of you and then to watch this young man breathe right back, communicate and start looking around, I get chills on my arms talking about it."

What caused Gaines to collapse during a timeout Wednesday night was a combination of dehydration and dangerously low potassium levels, his father said Thursday. A battery of tests performed on Gaines' heart came back negative, so the Southern California native is expected to be released from the hospital by Thursday evening.

Harry Gaines, Silas' father, came down from the stands and was at his son's side even before either the athletic trainer or Curro arrived. The elder Gaines initially thought his son was merely experiencing basic leg cramps until he realized Silas' breathing was also labored.

"The medical attention was there so fast that there really wasn't any time for me to panic or anything like that," Harry Gaines said. "Like most athletes, he has cramped up after playing a game, but this was the first time he had experienced anything like this."

By ensuring that they had two defibrillators and two athletic trainers on hand, directors of the Summer Jam tournament demonstrated how far safety precautions at grassroots events have come in recent years. It was only eight years ago that a promising New York prospect collapsed and died during an AAU game at Loyola Marymount, an outcome that perhaps could have been avoided had a defibrillator been available.

Curro said he makes a point of locating the defibrillators in each gym before the start of any tournament he organizes. Officials working the game between Inland Empire and Texas Select knew to radio Curro and the trainer and send someone to find them on foot as soon as Gaines collapsed.

"It shows the importance of having qualified trainers and active defibrillators on site and making sure you have protocol for something like this," Curro said. "In my opinion, any facility that hosts an activity like should have that on site. Without that, I'm not sure that young man is here today."

Harry Gaines said Silas was on his way to a 20-point game Wednesday night when he collapsed. Silas, who stars for The Webb Schools in Claremont, Calif., will not play the rest of the weekend in Milwaukee but hopes to return to the floor during the final week of the July evaluation period next week if doctors allow him.

That the younger Gaines will be on the floor again at all this summer will surely be a relief to those who saw him collapse. Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson tweeted on Wednesday night, "Witnessed a SCARY moment tonight watching HS hoops. Saw a kid collapse & may not survive. Prayers to the kid, family and teammate."

Though Harry Gaines insists it wasn't quite that severe a situation, he's relieved his son is going to be alright.

"I had to calm the rest of the players down," the elder Gaines said. "The big thing I take out of this is you need to have the safety equipment they had there. If it wasn't there, it could have been worse."

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