Scary Scene for Dallas Stars as Rich Peverley Has Heart Stop on Bench

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 11, 2014

Dallas Stars right wing Alex Chiasson (12) bows his head on the bench as defenseman Jordie Benn (24) takes a knee on the ice after play was stopped in the first period of an NHL Hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Monday, March 10, 2014, in Dallas. Stars center Rich Peverly was taken to a hospital after a medical emergency. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)
Sharon Ellman/Associated Press

Without the quick reaction of the Dallas Stars' medical staff, as well as the assistance of his teammates, this would likely be a eulogy for Rich Peverley.

Peverley's heart stopped briefly during Monday's game, which was immediately postponed and will be made up at a later date, if necessary. 

While on the bench in the first period, Peverley appears to have gone into cardiac arrest. In the video below, you can see the reaction of the athletic trainers, Dave Zeis and Craig Lowry, who rush Peverley from the bench back to the locker room with the assistance of others.

The Stars players reacted properly by getting out of the way, calling for the referees to stop the game so that EMTs could quickly cross the ice and provide whatever assistance was possible. 

After Peverley was rushed from the bench, the medical staff started chest compressions and then a defibrillator was used, per Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News.

These devices have become ubiquitous over the past decade and can restart the heart quickly and easily. Cowlishaw reports that Peverley's first questions upon regaining consciousness were how much time was left and if he could return to the game.

Peverley had just returned to the Stars after an episode of atrial fibrillation, a heart condition characterized by a rapid and irregular heartbeat.

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According to the Associated Press (via ESPN), Peverley had an episode last week where he felt his heart flutter before a flight. He was checked by doctors and had been cleared to return, playing in two games before his collapse.

Peverley's condition had been discovered during preseason physicals. An unusual EKG led to more tests, leading to Peverley undergoing a cardiac procedure called ablation, where part of the heart is damaged to stop the unusual and potentially dangerous arrhythmia. This common procedure does not preclude return to play and has a very short recovery time.

This all hit home for me watching last night, since it has been exactly one year since my own heart attack. While my condition is not identical to Peverley, I have had mild fibrillations since, requiring the use of a heart-rate monitor during exercise and activity. While that "fluttering" feeling is not painful, it's scary and uncomfortable. 

It is unclear whether Peverley had much, if any, warning before his cardiac arrest. Unconsciousness happens quickly and, with his shoulder pads on, it would have been difficult for the ATs to begin chest compressions on site.

That necessitated moving him quickly, which happened as planned. In the video below, you can see just how fast Zeis and Lowry worked, reaching Peverley in seconds and moving him back to the locker room for treatment that saved his life.

You can see at least two doctors come from behind the bench area and assist. This is a common arrangement and appears to have worked smoothly.

It can serve as a reminder for all of us to have our hearts checked regularly by our physicians and to have an emergency plan at home and work. In many workplaces, automated defibrillators are available for quick response. The price has come down enough that you can even buy them for your home.

With Peverley resting today in the hospital in stable condition, the Stars can exhale. With a situation like this, the game quickly becomes secondary, and the quick work and medical expertise of the doctors and athletic trainers shines.

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