ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Every NFL team has an advanced athletic training and medical staff who train to respond to a variety of severe injuries and medical emergencies. While teams practice responding to a player in cardiac arrest, one former athletic trainer says it is unprecedented to respond to an emergency like what happened Monday night in Cincinnati.
Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest just minutes into the game against the Bengals.
Bud Carpenter is the former director of athletic training for the Buffalo Bills and called the incident tragic.
“If Josh [Allen] overthrows a pass, oh darn that’s the way it goes. We didn’t have that luxury. Everybody needs to be in sync and everybody needs to perform exactly what we talked about,” Carpenter said.
He was on the medical team who cared for Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who was almost paralyzed after colliding with a Denver Broncos player during the opening game of the 2007 season. The Bills medical team practice emergency response scenarios with doctors, EMTs and athletic trainers, which Carpenter says was cutting edge for the NFL at the time.
“The Buffalo Bills did all of these things less than two weeks ago and this is the outcome. I think that was a great sense of pride for the NFL, but it also was also a motivation for them to say ‘Hey, we all need to be on the same page’,” Carpenter added. “The league now understands that if you don’t have this kind of teamwork and you don’t rehearse it you just may slip up.”
Because the Bills had such an advanced medical response plan, Bud says it became the gold standard in the NFL. Much like the players on the field, the medical teams now practice how to respond to injuries and medical events. The NFL also requires a “60 Minute Meeting”, where medical staffs from both teams and the head official meet one hour prior to kickoff to go over the safety plan in case of a severe injury.
“Every stadium and every training facility has a very detailed plan that describes, for a variety of medical emergencies, exactly what needs to happen,” Dr. Allen Sills, the chief medical officer for the NFL, said.
Player safety has improved since 2007, but Carpenter says there can always be more support.
“How do we add more personnel and 90 percent of the time you don’t need them, but that other 10 percent or that one night in Cincinnati, how many people do you need,” Carpenter concluded.
Carpenter added that both the Bengals and Bills medical teams were ready for an unprecedented medical emergency. He says Hamlin had the best of the best taking care of him because of the training they go through.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.