Anthony Arnone | January 17, 2023

Life-Saving Training Fit for the NFL

Athletic training students take part in the same emergency protocol training as the athletic trainers who saved Damar Hamlin’s life.

On January 2, 2023, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a hit that led to his collapse on the field. Athletic trainers and other medical personnel rushed onto the field, and due to their quick response, played a role in saving his life.

Those NFL athletic trainers participate in an annual four-hour training program that simulates situations similar to what happened to Hamlin that is conducted by Sports Medicine Concepts in Avon, New York – the same training program that SUNY Brockport athletic training students undergo as part of their curriculum.

Students loading an injured athlete onto a cart

Jason Wheatley, Dorothy Wernick, and Sabrine Bucher loading an injured athlete onto the cart

“Athletic trainers can go through their entire career without facing a situation like that,” said SUNY Brockport Athletic Training Program Director Tim Henry. “But when they face that situation, every moment can be the difference between life and death and we want to make sure our students can handle that properly.”

Sports Medicine Concepts’ partnership with Brockport’s Masters in Athletic Training program allows students to participate in a day-long, inter-professional emergency training. The purpose is to simulate emergencies and give athletic trainers real-time exposure. They even pump artificial crowd noise into the room to make the experience as realistic as possible.

“The equipment they (Sports Medicine Concepts) have is high-tech. Their mannequins can monitor and assess vitals from the entire simulation down to the second,” said Henry. “The inter-professional interaction is just as important. This is a total team effort and being able to train with paramedics and EMTs is not something you see in an ordinary classroom.”

Each simulation features a different injury and the student goes into the simulation without knowing what they are facing. They need to work from start to finish, assessing the athlete and the injury, calling in the paramedics if needed, and carefully escorting the athlete off the “field” and into the locker room or ambulance.

“It’s possible the athlete suffered a severe fracture with massive bleeding, has a collapsed airway, or another serious injury. As athletic trainers are typically the first person on the scene of an injury, our students need to assess what is wrong, put a plan into motion, and execute it,” Henry said.

Once each student completes a simulation, professional staff from Sports Medicine Complex go over the process from start to finish with the class, answering questions, and discussing what went well and what could have gone better.

With Hamlin’s situation improving, Henry hopes people start to understand the importance of having an athletic trainer at sporting events.

“We don’t cover this just once. We go over it frequently. This is what we train for,” said Henry.

Jessika Candileri performing CPR on a mannequin as it is brought into an ambulance Jessika Candileri performing CPR on a mannequin as it is brought into an ambulance