Norman Regional Health System

Friday, January 6, 2023

The incident involving Damar Hamlin during the Monday Night Football matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills has many raising questions regarding player safety. Norman Regional spoke with Aaron Smathers, MD, on Commotio Cordis and ways to prevent these incidents from happening in in young athletes. However, it’s also important to understand what athletic trainers are doing behind the scenes to protect young athletes.

Part of Ortho Central’s Sports Medicine program includes their athletic trainers, who provide on-site sports medicine services to athletes across the metro.

Ortho Central Sports Medicine Manager and certified athletic trainer, Joe Waldron, shares his perspective and the protocols his athletic trainers follow to prepare for events like this.

“Our athletic trainers undergo first-response training quite frequently throughout the year and practice our EAPs (Emergency Action Plan) all the time,” said Waldron. “The EAP is what we have in place to prepare for incidents like what happened to Damar Hamlin. The EAP includes everything from where an ambulance would enter the facility, who makes that phone call, what equipment is ready on site, how to remove equipment from athletes and more so that we can begin caring for the athlete as quickly as possible.”

The timeliness of care, is one of the most critical components of being an athletic trainer. Especially during a cardiac event, the athletic trainers are potentially providing life-saving care. These incidents are rare, but it’s important to be ready for them at any time, including from a mental standpoint.

Any time a player collapses on the field, it can have a jarring effect for those present. It’s emotional to witness a critical incident, but this is again where having a robust EAP comes into play. Part of an athletic trainer’s protocol is maintaining composure, even in events that can be rattling.

“Initially, you don’t even think about how an incident like this is affecting you, it’s all about following the EAP and processes we have in place to prepare for these events,” said Waldron. “As an athletic trainer, it’s easy to play things over in your mind after the event is over and wonder what you could have done differently. So it’s very mentally draining even if it’s only a five-minute timespan, it can feel much longer.”

Waldron emphasizes that the most important mantra he stresses to athletic trainers is “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Luckily, the NFL athletic trainers and medical personnel have a solid EAP in place, which allowed them to prepare for events like this and provide care as quickly as possible.

“I just want the public to know the training that athletic trainers have and that they are prepared to jump into action and deliver care. It’s not like our athletic trainers go out and start doing chest compressions right away, there are so many things going on that prepare our athletic trainers to be ready to deliver care in these situations,” said Waldron.

Ortho Central’s Sports Medicine program includes a team of athletic trainers who work with athletes in local schools, colleges and athletic organizations. The Sports Medicine program is another way in which Norman Regional is fulfilling its mission to be the leader in health and wellness with the ultimate goal of getting everyone to a healthier place, including student athletes.

Visit Ortho Central’s website to learn more about the Sports Medicine program.