Following last night’s greatly concerning incident during the NFL Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game where Damar Hamlin collapsed on field, it highlights the sudden and random nature of injuries in sport during activities that are a normal part of the game.
It is important that we reflect on what provision we have in place at our own team to ensure we can spring into action should catastrophic injuries such as these occur either on game day or during a training session.
Emergency action plans (EAP)
The BAFA medical policy has recently been updated and suggests that teams put in place Emergency Action Plans (EAP).
An EAP is a pre-determined risk management strategy to allow for high-quality assessment and care of athletes who have suffered from injury or sudden illness. This plan should usually be devised by the game-day medical staff and will be shared with the coaches and team manager.
Prior to game day is it is recommended that this document is shared with the opponent and referee crew so that they are aware of the procedures in place and can assist if/when needed.
Not following an EAP can lead to poor injury/illness management which could cause complications to athlete medical care.
EAPs should be put in place for both home and away games. A recent study by Travis et al., (2022) looking at medical provision in BUCS BAF reported 54.8% of teams had no EAP in place for each away game. This is concerning however could be due to a lack of consistent medical staff travelling to away games.
If you have no designated team medical staff, there are still actions you can take. Simple steps can be taken to devise this plan such as:
a) contacting the home team and requesting view of their EAP,
b) training your travelling game-day staff in basic first aid,
c) ensuring a designated fully-charged mobile phone is available for emergency use,
d) carrying a basic first aid kit with you and,
e) ensuring access to the what three words app.
The EAP should be reviewed and practiced on a regular basis to ensure all parties involved are confident and competent in their role.
Should you wish for an EAP template, please contact me via email or social media.
Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
In the case of Damar Hamlin, an AED was needed immediately to shock the heart back into rhythm.
Take a moment to think, do you know where your AED is location? Would you know how to use this?
If not, take the steps to ensure you do.
BAFA medical policy recommends that an AED is accessible, ideally within 100m of the playing pitch.
There is currently no requirement for AED training for game day staff or the designated first aider in BAFA policy but this is strongly advised.
Positively Travis et al., (2022) reported the majority of BUCS AF teams had access to an AED (74.2%) within 100m of the game facility however only 51.6% of these teams listed an AED as available directly pitch-side in the first aid equipment meaning immediate timely treatment would not be possible. Furthermore, only 29% of staff were trained to use the AED. This is concerning since we cannot always rely upon one individual to carry out first aid provision. Wider findings from this study suggest that inadequate funding might be a barrier to the hiring suitable medical provision, including access to an AED.
If teams are struggling to fund an AED for their game and training facility, they should note that there are a number of charities which can provide support in the purchasing, maintenance and training of AEDs.
Access to an AED is critical to improving cardiac arrest survival as highlighted in a 2009 review (Drezner., 2009), alongside the presence of an individual trained in CPR and early defibrillation.
AED access and creation of an EAP are two simple and highly effective steps that could save a life. Don’t hesitate to implement these now.
Should you have any questions, I would be happy to help. Just drop me a line.
I wish the very best for Damar Hamlin’s recovery.
Drezner JA (2009) Preparing for sudden cardiac arrest—the essential role of automated external defibrillators in athletic medicine: a critical review. Br J Sports Med 43(9):702–707
Travis, E.L., Scott-Bell, A. and Thornton, C., 2022. A national survey of clubs medical provision and facilities in BUCS American Football 2019–2020. Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971-), pp.1-9.