When seconds counted, an athletic trainer was the first to reach Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin when he collapsed on the field from a cardiac arrest during an NFL game in Cincinnati. An athletic trainer and medical professionals who used CPR and an AED (automated external defibrillator) on the field are credited for Hamlin surviving the cardiac incident and now being in recovery.
While local high school athletic teams do not have physicians on the sidelines like the NFL, many do have the benefit of an athletic trainer from Carle Sports Medicine. Sports like football, soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, softball, track and cross country competitions most often are accompanied by a Carle trainer. There are 22 who work directly with high school athletes and two working with college-level athletes.
Even though they work with amateur athletes rather than professional, the local athletic trainers have many of the same mechanisms in place as the professional leagues. Emergency action plans are in place and reviewed before each season with the coaches and the high school athletic department. They talk with coaches from both teams before each competition to introduce themselves and let them know where they will be located during the event. That awareness includes coordinating responses and an understanding of medical needs athletes have even before competing.
“We spend a lot of time on emergency readiness. Even though the reaction on the playing field is mostly to severe injury, there is always a chance someone’s life can depend on our skills and preparedness,” Chris Danbury, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, at Carle Sports Medicine said. Currently an athletic trainer for home games at the University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Danbury previously worked as athletic trainer at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond High School.
The reality, he said, is he has done more CPR on parents and grandparents in the stands at a sports competition than on the field, but the athletic trainers are always willing to step up and use their skills no matter who needs help.
“We are the one person everybody wants there with nothing to do,” Danbury said.
If the other team does not have an athletic trainer, we ask for permission from the other school to treat athletes if they need help right away, he said. “In some rural areas we are the only healthcare provider these kids regularly see other than when they have an annual exam at a clinic.”
And that relationship builds trust that helps when needed most.
Flannell said the athletic trainers work to keep kids safe before the team heads into competition. Every two years, the athletic trainers complete CPR certification with classroom and hands-on testing. Annual concussion training and use of the 5th edition of the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool as well as spine boarding training for safe transport of an athlete are all part of the repeated training by the athletic trainers to be ready, he said.
“We’re trained and ready,” Flannell said.