ACC Council Statement on Sudden Cardiac Arrest During Monday Night Football

Editor's Note: This statement was written on behalf of the ACC Sports & Exercise Leadership Council

On Monday evening, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills experienced sudden cardiac arrest in the first quarter of the game versus the Cincinnati Bengals. At this point in time, many details regarding this catastrophic event remain to be determined. He is reported to be in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. First and foremost, our hearts are with Damar, his family, the Buffalo Bills, and all the players, coaches, and staff that were on the field during this awful event. Along with everyone else, we are hoping for Damar's full recovery. When catastrophes like this occur with athletes on the competitive field, we are reminded that these events, while very rare, are always emotionally traumatic for all who witness them and it is important that appropriate support and respect for privacy is provided to all involved. We would like to remind everyone, including medical professionals, that the etiology surrounding this cardiac arrest remains unknown and under investigation by medical professionals at the University of Cincinnati and those affiliated with the Buffalo Bills. Reckless speculation on social media is a source of disinformation and could lead to other unintended negative consequences. We would encourage all to avoid this practice and allow the medical evaluation to proceed by those in charge.

At some point in the future, as more details are revealed, we will be able to learn from this event to continue to improve the emergency care of athletes who suffer an on-field cardiac arrest. Cardiac on-field emergency care is a core tenant of Sports Cardiology care and indeed, the immediate response of the Bills training staff and other medical professionals on the field Monday night is exactly what should occur after such acute cardiac events. Rapid assessment of a collapsed athlete, recognition of the event as a sudden cardiac arrest, and initiation of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), which includes immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), are mainstays of this emergency care. Even with intensive pre-season cardiac assessments, we will never be able to prevent all cases of sudden cardiac arrests in athletes, but an emphasis on the EAP and early defibrillator use has been shown to save lives. Sudden cardiac arrest in young healthy athletes is rare, but this case illustrates the importance of close collaborations between sporting leagues, players associations, and team medical staffs to prepare for these moments. This should include an annual off-season review of EAPs and regular on-field rehearsals of emergency medical scenarios, which may include training by other consultants and experts. In the NFL, there is also a "60-minute meeting" one hour before every game to discuss the coordination of care between medical staff and local emergency care providers for potential on-field emergencies. The sudden cardiac arrest of an athlete reminds us that direction of resources toward and education on an effective EAP and CPR training for those who care for competitive athletes saves lives.

Clinical Topics: Sports and Exercise Cardiology

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