Tragedy Averted: How Hands-Only CPR Saved a Lacrosse Player's Life


This story appears in the February 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Head to to subscribe.

On a beautiful autumn day this past November, families from across Washington State drove out among the apple orchards of Yakima Valley for the Northwest Fall Lax Fest. Against that quiet, pastoral setting, no one would have expected the emergency that would end the tournament.

Referee Jeff Bambrick remembers the moment he saw Samuel Deming collapse during the championship game. About two minutes remained when an offensive player fired a shot at the goal that struck Deming instead. Initially, it appeared that he had just been hit in the lower abdomen as he crumpled to the ground. The coach and trainer came out on the field as Bambrick spoke with the other officials to see if they should stop the clock.

After a minute or so, Bambrick went over to see how Deming was doing.

“As I walked up, I heard agonal gasping. It’s a very distinctive type of gasping,” Bambrick said. “In my career, I’ve heard it quite a few times, and I immediately recognized this guy is very near dead.”

Bambrick, a lieutenant and training paramedic with the Tacoma Fire Department, knew to start chest compressions immediately. Bystanders removed Deming’s gear and helmet while about 150 parents looked on. 

Bambrick’s 20-year career had prepared him for this moment. He teaches CPR, advanced cardiac life support and pediatric life support to the 400-person department and general public as a Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. He also has been on a lacrosse field in some capacity since his days as a high school player in the 1980s.

After a few minutes of hands-only CPR, Deming started breathing again, and Bambrick could find a pulse. Just then, paramedics arrived.

“I’m pretty sure this is commotio cordis,” Bambrick told them.

Commotio cordis is a rare, but catastrophic disruption of the heart rhythm that occurs after a blow to the area directly over the heart at just the right time in the cycle of the heartbeat.

“As long as they get CPR immediately and the brain gets oxygen, they usually have a full recovery, and that’s what happened in this case,” Bambrick said.

Deming had a bruised heart. The hospital cardiologist monitored him for 48 hours and sent him home.

Bambrick and Deming reunited the next month at another tournament in Seattle in which Deming participated.

“It’s the terrible phone call nobody wants to get,” said David Deming, Samuel’s father. “You wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but we are fortunate we had a great outcome.”

Commotio cordis started gaining attention in lacrosse circles back in the early 2000s after a few high-profile deaths in the sport. US Lacrosse has had an AED grant program for more than 10 years. (David Deming said the club had an AED, but it was a new unit that was locked in the trunk of a car. By the time it was retrieved and unwrapped, paramedics had arrived.)

Still, Bruce Griffin, the director of the Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse, saw the need for something more beyond just the device itself — an accessible training program for youth coaches. When the AHA released its CPR in Schools kit, Griffin saw its potential and felt that with a few modifications, it could be adapted to serve youth sports needs.

At the US Lacrosse Convention in February, the AHA released its CPR & First Aid in Youth Sport Training Kit. Griffin called it a game-changer for local youth sports organizations, typically run by volunteers with limited training. The kit allows the average person to facilitate training for 10-20 people in less than an hour. 

“The lesson we learned is to make sure you have all the boxes checked in advance,” David Deming said. “A working AED, people who know how to administer CPR and proper equipment.”

As a 15-year-old youth basketball coach, Griffin witnessed an incident that has stayed with him all these years. An official had a sudden cardiac arrest right in front of him. He didn’t know what to do, but the mother of one of his athletes performed CPR, and the official lived. That made him never want another coach to face that situation without knowing how to help.

“How does the ambulance get to where we are? Do we have to open a gate? Do they have to drive onto the field? You need to plan out beforehand,” Bambrick said. “It’s so important that the coaches and referees know where the emergency equipment is. The wrong time to find out is when something bad happens.”


US Lacrosse joined forces with the American Heart Association to develop a CPR and first aid training kit designed for youth sports. They unveiled the product in February at the US Lacrosse Convention in Philadelphia.

The kit provides education for hands-only CPR training and the use of AED devices, which must be purchased separately.

The kit contains everything needed to train up to 20 people in less than an hour, including:

  • 1 wheeled carry bag

  • 10 inflatable manikins

  • 10 kneel mats

  • 10 individual carry bags

  • 5 training DVDs (code to access streaming video also included)

  • 1 hand pump for manikin inflation

  • 2 mesh collection and storage bags

  • 10 replacement airways

  • 50 manikin wipes

  • 10 replacement face masks

  • 10 AED training simulators

  • 1 facilitator binder that contains the Facilitator Guide, lesson plans, pre-test and post-test and supplementary materials

To purchase a training kit, visit

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