Can personal trainers learn anything from the death of Michael Jackson? Absolutely because when I first heard of what happened – and DID NOT happen on that terrible night, I knew this unfortunate incident could be used to help personal trainers if they find themselves in a situation where they have to help a person is fighting for their life.
The Michael Jackson 911 Call
By now, most people remember the now well-known 911 call that occurred in the minutes after Michael Jackson died. A man calls 911 and says something of the effect “we have a gentleman not breathing”. When I first heard this, I thought to myself “Why didn’t anybody say Michael Jackson isn't breathing”? Were the people who were supposed to take care of Mr. Jackson so afraid of added publicity that they would not say his name when he needed them most? Fitness trainers should think ahead of time what they might say on the phone if they ever have to make an emergency 911 call.
The other thing about the 911 call that jumped out at me concerned how they were doing chest compressions on Jackson. The people in the room – Dr. Conrad Murray -or others -were doing chest compressions when Michal Jackson was still in bed.
Why were they not performing CPR when he was on the floor – when the chest compressions would have potentially been more effective? I heard the 911 operator tell the person on the phone to move Jackson to the floor. Why didn't people know to do this?
Dr. Conrad Murray is a cardiologist, so I would assume that he knows the proper way to do CPR, but this big mistake calls attention to the fact that errors can occur. We are all human and none of us is perfect. That said, personal trainers should routinely go through the proper steps of CPR to minimize errors from occurring.
I have also read that Michael Jackson's had a “nutritionist” who was a nurse. OK, a nurse was informing him about nutrition. Not to belittle nurses, but everybody knows that it is the registered dietitians (RDs) who are the nutrition experts.
If Jackson had a health problem he should have had a nurse AND a registered dietitian who specialized in his health issue. Also, the word nutritionist is about as well regulated as the phrase ‘All Natural”. In many states, anybody can call themselves a “nutritionist”
This unfortunate passing of Michael Jackson brings to light 2 important facts:
- Bad things can happen when we least expect it
- Personal trainers should be prepared when bad things happen
Personal trainers and safety
While personal trainers usually don't think about it, the fact remains that ticking time bombs work out in every health club in the world. It's sometimes hard to pick them out. Some visual signs are possible but they are not perfect. For example, here is how to see type II diabetes.
Here is a personal trainer safety checklist. Keep these in the back of your minds, just in case you are ever faced with someone seriously injured in the gym:
1. All personal trainers and group fitness instructors should have a current CPR / AED certification. The same goes for people who work at the front desk.
2. All health clubs should have an emergency procedure and ALL staff should be familiar with it. These procedures should be randomly tested with mock emergencies so that the staff gets used to reacting to emergency situations.
These procedures should be written down and the general manager/fitness director should review the procedures with ALL new staff when they are hired.
3. When an emergency occurs, fitness instructors should stop what they are doing and go to the site of the emergency. For example, if an emergency occurs in the lady's locker room, men should have no qualms about entering that locker room. The same goes for women, entering the men's locker room during an emergency.
Managers – your novice fitness staff are embarrassed to do this! They have been told since childhood not to enter the other genders' locker-room /restroom. You need to tell them it's OK – or they won't do it!
Self Employed Personal Trainers
Personal trainers who are self-employed and traveling to the homes of people should know the address of the people they train – and the addresses should be written down in their day planner/blackberry, etc. If an emergency occurs and the trainer calls 911 from their cell phone, the 911 service may not immediately know where they are calling from (calling from a home phone will immediately give the location).
People faced with a serious emergency may forget their current location, so have it written down just in case. Personal trainers should also have a first aid kit in their cars. I do not know of any personal trainers who have AEDs in their cars but as the prices of these devices drop, this may occur.
Personal Trainers and Nutrition advice
Personal trainers are often asked questions about nutrition. Knowing about exercise does not necessarily mean the trainer knows about nutrition. This is especially true if the person asking the question has health. This is why I often advise trainers to form an alliance with a registered dietitian.
If you work in a health club, don't assume that somebody else will go to help. You may be the best-qualified person to help in an emergency situation. Will you make some mistakes? Possibly. Will you be afraid? Probably. Most would and that’s ok.
The important thing is to do something. Also, read my review Gym Medical Emergencies.
Do You Have Any Questions?
Kris Copeland says
Great information! I was a lifeguard instructor at the Y for a year and a half. The lifeguards were considered the first responders for the entire building, but all the staff was required to get their CPR/AED certs. Also, I made sure we always went through and went over the emergency procedures with the other departments to make sure they were on the same page. That should be a standard practice in every gym/health club. Also, having an oxygen tank on hand with people who know how to administer it can really help.
Joe Cannon says
Kris, thanks for your words and I totally agree about the gyms/health clubs! Unfortunately I continue to hear that most health clubs are totally unprepared for medical emergencies (YMCAs and JCCs appear to be the best prepared as your words show).
the michael jackson thing sounds hoaxy,,, nice article and good safety points though.
Joe Cannon says
Igor, I quoted right from what the news was reporting, about what was done and not done on the day he passed. It was very sad.
Excellent article–insightful & informative!