HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to ensure all school sporting events have the technology needed to potentially save lives.
Following the on-field cardiac arrest of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, Pennsylvania State Senator Marty Flynn (D) says he plans to introduce legislation to require automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at school sporting events.
“That just really woke me up and snapped me upright in my chair when I’m watching the game,” Sen. Flynn said.
Sen. Flynn said what happened to Damar Hamlin got him thinking about student athletes. He says sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death among student-athletes participating in practices and events.
“How are we giving our kids the chance that Damar had here?” he asked.
As he started doing more research, he said he was shocked by what he found.
“It’s not even required for [AEDs] to be in our schools,” Sen. Flynn said. “I think it’s very irresponsible of us.”
That is how Damar’s Law started.
“My legislation aims to recognize and address the increased risks of SCA amongst student athletes by requiring that an AED be present at any sporting event hosted by a school district,” said Sen. Flynn. “Additionally, all coaches would be required to complete training on the proper use of AEDs. These requirements would ensure that the most critical component to increasing survivability after SCA is addressed.”
Hamlin is a native of McKees Rocks, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and played college football at Pitt. He was drafted by the Bills in 2021. He has been released from the hospital but doctors say he faces a long recovery. His football career remains uncertain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is estimated that between 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 80,000 young athletes die of sudden cardiac death each year.
“Damar Hamlin is a reminder that even elite athletes experience SCA. His recovery has been described as ‘miraculous’ by many, though it is undeniable that the immediate response saved his life. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill to provide our student athletes with the same chance for a ‘miracle,'” Sen. Flynn said.
The challenge now, according to Sen. Flynn, is to find out how to pay for this, but he said there are some avenues already in place. Under an earlier law, he said public schools and parochial schools can purchase AEDs at discounted rates.
For him, finding a way to make it work is worth it.
“It’s 1 in 50,000, 1 in 100,000, but you know, you save that one kid’s life, it’s worth all the AEDs to buy,” he said.
Sen. Flynn said he is still working with the state’s Department of Education to draft the language in the bill, but he expects to introduce it within a month.