LAS VEGAS (KLAS)— While Damar Hamlin’s injuries happened on the professional stage, student-athletes face physical risks on the field too, especially when regulators do not require medical personnel on-site.
The Monday night football game took millions by shock nationwide when a Buffalo Bills player got up from a tackle, only to fall back on the floor. His team announced via a statement that he had suffered a cardiac arrest.
But, compared to the flurry of first responders that helped restore Hamlin’s heartbeat on the field, high school athletic events do not have these same resources.
Mike Cofer played in the NFL on multiple teams throughout the late 80s into the mid-90s. He now fills the athletic director and head football coach positions at Slam! Nevada, a charter school in Henderson.
“It’s been years since anything like that has probably happened on a football field,” Cofer said in his office Tuesday morning, recounting what he saw on TV the night prior.
Now, he teaches several student-athletes but acknowledges they’re not as “indestructible” as athletes may feel. Monday’s collapse is a prime example of the risks any player takes when stepping on the field.
“We’re not completely made of steel,” Cofer said. “Unfortunately, it oftentimes takes these scenarios for people to come back and say, ‘oh, we got to go back and, you know, reset our standards, our practices.’”
What are those standards? They come from the NIAA, or the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, which regulates high school athletics.
CPR and AED training is required for all coaches, athletic directors, and trainers. These trainers are who respond to student athletes’ physical injuries.
However, these trainers or any medical personnel’s presence is not required during every game or practice.
“We have a trainer on staff and she is at most of the events that take place,” Cofer said.
Though not required, many schools said they staff this on-field position at every game. Faith Lutheran Middle and High School Athletic Director Bret Walter told 8 News Now that their trainer is subcontracted through Dignity Health. A CCSD representative told 8 News Now that they are at every high school football game with an AED.
Additionally, NIAA requires each student-athlete to have a new physical on file each year. But, as Monday’s game shows, some injuries cannot be screened.
“Should there be an ambulance at every high school football game? I don’t know,” Cofer said. “In your higher contact sports, maybe there should be a little bit more higher level personnel ready to attend to anything that may happen. That’s maybe a discussion we can have down the line.”
Additionally, the regulations require an AED to be on the property of any high school sporting event, though it does require they be located on the sideline.