Robeson County schools require CPR certification for coaches, athletic trainers in wake of Damar Hamlin’s collapse

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 11:17 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 11:18 PM EST
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ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WMBF) - In the wake of Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin’s mid-game cardiac arrest, Public Schools of Robeson County is taking action to ensure the safety of its student-athletes.

The scary moment televised national-wide allowed millions to witness Hamlin collapse on the field and the moments that followed as team physicians and first aid responders performed CPR to save his life.

Now, athletic directors for Robeson County schools are stressing the importance of being certified and staying certified in this lifesaving skill.

“That should be a wake-up call for all of us. It should be a wake-up call for school districts across the country,” said District Athletic Director Jerome Hunt. “Our high school athletics association does require our high school coaches be CPR certified, but it is not required for middle school.”

Since Hamlin’s medical emergency, the Public Schools of Robeson County have mandated all coaches be certified in CPR to properly respond to any emergency situation.

Hunt says the recent events hit close to home after witnessing a similar event to a high school football player in 2018.

“Fortunately we had two of our athletic trainers on site they were able to start CPR and help this kid,” said Hunt. “He’s now doing great today and was able to go on to play college basketball.”

In Horry County, Athletic Director Jason Cox said they are constantly staying up-to-date on the latest safety equipment and protocols -- which include having EMS on-site at all high school football games.

“Damar’s situation definitely makes you think about things but I truly feel we are ready in case of an emergency,” said Cox.

Horry County schools already mandate both high school and middle school coaches be CPR certified -- they’re also trained to use automated external defibrillators.

“The AEDs are in a place where anyone can get them in case of an emergency not just the athletic trainer or someone who’s trained to do so,” said Cox.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 80,000 young athletes die of sudden cardiac death each year.

Myrtle Beach Youth Sports Supervisor, Kirk Gallion says even on the recreational level there’s always someone on-site trained in CPR.

“We have AEDs at our facilities and our fields and all our staff is CPR trained,” said Gallion. “Something I think that has set us apart is we never have a field or court that’s not being watched by staff.

Gallion said he’s unsure if Hamlin’s heart issue will deter parents from allowing their kids to play football next fall -- however, he is confident in their ability to keep the health and safety of these young athletes front of mind.

“We are used to broken limbs and concussions but to have a cardiac event like that in front of the world,” said Gallion. “I think it will impact families and they will have discussions with doctors to make sure their children are cleared and physically fit for activities.”