Damar Hamlin incident increases CPR awareness, readiness

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Valley Parks and Recreation Department has taken safety measures to respond to emergency cardiac events like the one Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin dealt with Monday night during the team’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Safety’s got to be your first priority, no matter what you’re doing. If it’s a baseball game or rec basketball game, you’ve got to be conscious of that,” said Parks and Recreation Department Athletic Director Mark Hudmon,

Hamlin collapsed after a sudden cardiac arrest during the NFL’s Monday Night Football matchup. He was on the field for around 10 minutes while paramedics performed CPR. 

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Dr. Krishna Reddy of Pinnacle Cardiovascular Associates in Valley said the incident may have been caused by direct trauma to the chest wall during the game.

According to Hudmon, all Valley Parks and Recreation Department staff must complete CPR-certified and first-aid training. All recreation coaches must also complete a Coach Safely certificate training, which covers ​​coaching, concussion training and first aid training yearly. 

“You’ve got to be pretty quick on your feet to remember what you’ve been trained in and take those measurements,” Hudmon said.

The Valley Sportsplex and Community Center are also equipped with AED units, which are portable defibrillators in the case of sudden cardiac arrest. The AEDs could help players as well as spectators who may be at higher heart risk. The Valley Fire Department frequently checks that the units are still functioning. 

“It happens not infrequently, unfortunately,” Reddy said. 

Using a defibrillator, a bystander can help resuscitate a patient as soon as they collapse. Reddy said the first few minutes after a sudden cardiac arrest takes place are vital to the patient’s survival. Only 8-10% of people outside of a hospital survive.

“What is the determinate of how well they do or if they make it out of the cardiac arrest and if they survive is how soon a person gets to them and starts CPR. For example, if they’ve been down in the house for 10-15 minutes, it’s probably too late to bring them back,” Reddy said. “So these portable defibrillators have really saved lives.”

The recreation department also has a procedure set up for getting emergency vehicles through as quickly as possible. 

“It’s always good to have some kind of warning system if you pass out or fall down,” Reddy said.

There have been instances when a player or a spectator was injured and an ambulance had to be called, according to Hudmon. Though it doesn’t happen often, he said the coaches and staff are prepared to act if needed.

“We don’t have that many, but we just have to be ready and alert when we do have that,” Hudmon said.

According to Reddy, sudden cardiac arrest is more common in older patients, smokers and those with coronary artery disease. Another possible cause of sudden cardiac arrest in younger patients like athletes is congenital conditions such as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult to pump blood through the heart. 

Reddy suggested that sporting or exercise facilities have an AED unit as well as a staff member with a Basic Cardiac Life Support certification. He also said individuals with a family history of congenital heart problems should get a screening.

“If there’s any kind of family history of birth defects of the heart muscle that they’re born with, especially if their children are planning to play sports, they need to get a good screening,” Reddy said.