Scary NFL incident reinforces importance of learning CPR

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, January 4, 2023

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A terrifying incident during Monday Night Football has renewed discussion around the importance of CPR training.

During Monday’s NFL game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a tackle, stood up and then collapsed on the field. CPR was administered on the field and Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored, according to the Bills.

He was then taken to a local hospital, where he remained in critical condition as of Tuesday afternoon.   The game — which lost all its significance in the moment — was postponed and won’t be continued this week, according to the NFL.

Emory interventional cardiologist Marcus Williams said in a case like Hamlin’s, physicians will be testing his brain function, which can take anywhere up to three to five days.

Williams speculated that Hamlin suffered from a rare condition called commotio cordis. This occurs when someone is hit in the chest and can cause the person to go unconscious and stop breathing.

“People are struck in the chest all the time, but it has to be of a certain strength and strike firm enough at an exact time that could send someone into this,” Williams said.

Michelle O’Neill, a registered nurse at Premier Medical Training Services, said CPR played a huge role in helping Hamlin Monday.

“When someone goes down into cardiac arrest or they’re not breathing, their heart has stopped it’s apparent to get CPR began immediately,” O’Neill said. “Performing CPR will increase their chance of survival if they can get it in the first six minutes.”

According to the American Heart Association, for every minute that passes without CPR, a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival drops by 7-10%.

Troup County School Safety Coordinator and District Athletic Director Steve Heaton said coaches and athletic personnel in the school district are CPR and AED-certified.

Heaton said right now the system is looking to purchase more AEDs that will allow the defibrillators to be mobile and at all games.

“In the past, we have gotten some of our staff to take an AED from the school after hours and use it for an event and then replace it,” Heaton said. “We’re trying to purchase more of those so if we have an event, like cardiac arrest at a sporting event, that they’ll be able to utilize the AED to revive or possibly revive an athlete or even a fan.”

Heaton said some high schools don’t have people athletic trainers on the sideline and emergency personnel on standby.

“We’re very fortunate because many high schools and school districts can’t afford to do that. Having the additional athletic trainers and being able to pay your medical emergency personnel to come out on standby is extremely important,” Heaton said. “We’re very fortunate to be able to not only pay to have that done but that they’re willing to provide us that additional service.”

Heaton said having coaches in the district with CPR knowledge is essential.

“There are some events when we don’t have EMTs or paramedics there. We need to be able to provide a type of medical response to either our athletes or somebody who may be watching the game. We need to be able to provide that service very quickly so that we could increase the possibility that we save somebody’s life,” Heaton said. “If somebody goes into cardiac arrest, you’re talking minutes, if not seconds. You’ve got to respond and respond appropriately.”

When seeing or learning the initial steps of CPR, it can be very intense. It’s because of that fear many do not seek the training because of worries of hurting the person or failing at it.

O’Neill said in administering CPR, people have to see the act as giving the person their best chance of survival.

“You’re not going to harm them because they’re already not breathing and don’t have a pulse,” O’Neill said. “You have to know the only thing you can do is give them a better chance of survival, and you’re doing good for them in even attempting CPR.”

Williams said learning CPR can be scary but to quell the fear, he recommends going with a friend.

“You’re not the only one getting educated,” Williams said. “There are two benefits to that, one is you’re not by yourself — you can learn from each other and the other benefit is that you’re getting more people trained at once.”

Lieutenant Lance Horn with the LaGrange Fire Department, an 11-year certified CPR trainer, said it’s an opportunity to help someone in grave need.

“Look at it as you have been put in a situation where you have the ability to change somebody’s life,” Horn said.

Seventy percent of Americans feel helpless to act in a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to perform CPR, according to the American Heart Association.

Horn said not many people outside of the hospital get the help they need when they experience a cardiac arrest.

“Whenever you can combine high-quality chest compressions with early defibrillation, the chances of survival almost triple,” Horn said.  “CPR training is an extremely important class to hone in on the skills and perfect it.”

“When you’re in the hospital, people tend not to have cardiac events because they have other measures to prevent those things to happen,” O’Neill said. “Normally, when someone does have a cardiac event, it’s usually out into the community — that’s why it’s extremely important to have our community and people trained on how to do CPR.”

In Troup County, there are resources for those looking to get CPR training.

Premier Medical Training Services offers CPR classes for $65 a class, with their next class scheduled for Feb. 12. They also offer to come to businesses and train employees on CPR.

The Red Cross offers online CPR training for children and adults at $37 per class.  The LaGrange Fire Department offers training starting at $8 however, the price of the class depends on how much the instructor wants to charge.