Lifeguard training company won't abandon use of controversial technique

Heimlich maneuver has fallen out of favor as preferred method


HOUSTON – Local 2 Investigates has found that a lifeguard training company, whose curriculum is taught to thousands of new lifeguards nationwide every year, uses a single controversial life-saving technique not recommended by either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

"It is certainly not something that is being taught right now by the major accrediting organizations," Dr. Cesar Aristeiguieta, Director of Emergency Medicine at Memorial Hermann Memorial City, said.

The technique in question is the Heimlich Maneuver, well-known, and generally considered to be effective at helping remove upper airway obstructions in choking victims.

But the Heimlich maneuver, generically known as abdominal thrusts, has fallen out of favor as a preferred technique when it comes to rescuing unconscious drowning victims.

I can tell you 20 years ago it was being taught as the first step in resuscitating somebody," Aristeiguieta said.

There does not seem to be a lot of science to either prove or disprove the Heimlich Maneuver's effectiveness in this application, but the consensus among the medical community is to skip it and move directly to CPR.

However, NASCO, a lifeguard training company has not abandoned teaching the Heimlich maneuver and does not plan to in Texas.

Dr. John Hunsucker is the company founder.

Local 2 Investigates asked Hunsucker why his instructors use a technique not approved by the American Red Cross.

"They don't know what they're doing they're 1970s protocol," Hunsucker said.

But NASCO, it should be noted, was compelled in the State of Utah to abandon teaching abdominal thrusts to lifeguards in that state.

In a letter sent in February, NASCO instructed lifeguards not to use abdominal thrusts.

At least two cities, Jacinto City and Deer Park, are now reviewing their lifeguard training programs.

Both cities are awaiting an opinion from a not-for-profit advisory group called Setrac.