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From the National Athletic Trainers' Association

First Aid for Lightning Victims

In the event lightning strikes a player, fan, or official at a sports contest, here's what you need to do:

  • Call for help. Call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service.
  • Get medical attention as quickly as possible.  
  • Move the victim to an area of greater safety if necessary (e.g. if active thunderstorms in the area; rescuers need to consider their own personal safety before venturing into a dangerous situation to render care); People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people. You can examine them without risk.
  • Give first aid. 
    • The basic principle of triage ("treat the living first") should be reversed in patients struck by lightning: those appear to be dead should be treated first;
    • If the victim has stopped breathing, begin rescue breathing.
    • If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.
    • If the person has a pulse and is breathing, address any other injuries.
    • For those victims who are unconcious and may be in cardiac arrest, if an AED (automatic external defibrillator) is available,check to see if ventricular fibrillation is detected; if it is the AED will apply an electrical charge; if the cardiac rhythm detected is not fibrillation, the AED will not fire and CPR should be restarted. 
  • Check for burns in two places. The injured person has received an electric shock and may be burned. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.  
  • Stay Informed. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local media for the latest severe thunderstorm WATCHES and WARNINGS. Severe thunderstorms are those storms with winds in excess of 58 mph or hail larger than 3/4 inches in diameter. When conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop, a severe thunderstorm WATCH is issued.  Weather Service personnel use information from weather radar, satellite, lightning detection, spotters, and other sources to issue severe thunderstorm WARNINGS for areas where severe weather is imminent. Remember, however, that ALL thunderstorms produce deadly lightning.

For more information visit the National Weather Service web site

Sources: National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Lightning Safety for Athletics and Recreation


Revised May 22, 2013