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Key Terms

Airway obstruction

Airway patency


Aspiration pneumonitis

Bag valve mask (BVM)


Endotracheal intubation




Jaw thrust maneuver

King laryngeal tube-disposable (King LT-D)

Laryngeal mask airway (LMA)



Nasal cannula


Nasopharyngeal (NP) airway

Oropharyngeal (OP) airway


Oxygen therapy

Pocket mask

Reservoir bag face mask

Simple face mask



An assistant football coach runs into the athletic training room yelling that the head coach has collapsed in his office. The athletic trainer runs to the office and finds the coach sitting in his chair with his head slumped forward. The coach does not respond to shouting and prodding. The athletic trainer quickly realizes the coach is not breathing well and his skin has a bluish tint. The athletic trainer tells the assistant coach to call 911 and activate the emergency action plan. What would you do next?


Of all the components of emergency care, only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation have a higher priority than airway management. Although cardiac arrest and airway compromise are rare in athletics, the results are devastating, especially if the athletic trainer is unprepared. (See Chapter 4 for more information on sudden cardiac death.) This chapter will discuss briefly the anatomy of the airway, how to relieve airway compromise including the use of airway adjuncts, and the administration of oxygen and will introduce techniques of advanced airway management. Although some states may have legislation precluding athletic trainers from using some of these interventions, all athletic trainers and athletic training students should be familiar with the concepts.

imageSTAT Point 3-1. Only CPR and defibrillation are more important than airway management.

Airway Anatomy

The airway can be divided into two parts: the upper and lower airway (Fig. 3-1A). The upper airway is composed of the oropharynx and nasopharynx. The nasopharynx consists of two passages through the nose and into the posterior oropharynx. Air passing through the nose is warmed and particles are filtered by the nasal hairs. The largest diameter of the nasal passages is in the inferior compartment, which is important to remember when placing a nasopharyngeal airway. The oropharynx starts at the mouth and ends at the trachea. The mouth includes the tongue inferiorly and the hard palate superiorly. The tongue has many functions, but for our purposes it is only a problem. The tongue is the most common reason for airway obstruction because ...

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