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Virginia athletic leaders say doing these things can save lives on the sidelines: 'This is reality'

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 21:45:29-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Central Virginia athletic leaders said the story of Damar Hamlin's tragic injury serves as an important reminder for youth and high school sports leagues.

Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, remained in the hospital Tuesday morning after the Bills confirmed he suffered from cardiac arrest during the NFL's Monday Night Football matchup against the Bengals.

Hamlin was hit while trying to tackle Tee Higgins in the middle of the field during the first quarter of the game. Hamlin stood up after the hit and appeared to adjust his face mask but fell backward to the ground seconds later.

The NFL said in a statement that Hamlin was in "critical condition" at a local hospital. Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to postpone the game.

"It just makes it real. And it kind of puts it in the forefront of like, this is reality," Mike Puglia, a Central Virginia athletic trainer, said.

Puglia served as an athletic trainer including at Powhatan High School and said Hamlin's injury serves as a reminder for youth sports to have plans, training and equipment in place for this type of scenario.

"The number one killer of student-athletes is sudden cardiac arrest," Puglia said.

Noting that not all teams have athletic trainers, he said this preparation includes everyone - coaches, players and parents - being trained in CPR.

"A lot of times, they're going to be the first ones to respond to these things," Puglia said.

Puglia said another important factor is having an AED close by, adding that several years ago, he and some students pushed to get them in the school's athletic complex as they were too far away to be truly effective.

"You need an AED to be on that individual within three minutes from them to have a chance," Puglia said.

Studies have found an AED in that time puts a person's survival rate over 70% but it drops by 10% for every minute it's not after that.

"I've been around in this business for 20 years, I've never seen anything like it," Chip Boone, Powhatan High School's athletic director, said.

While CPR certification is now a graduation requirement for students at Powhatan High School, Boone said they are currently ensuring that all coaches are also required to be certified.

"The people that are in charge of school systems are aware of these kinds of things and are aware of the safety of their student-athletes," Boone said.

Puglia said the big thing he wants everyone watching to know is not to assume their school or organization has all these things in place, but to ask leadership if they are nad make the needed changes if not.

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