Emergency protocols for Nevada Football and WCSD Athletics

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:05 AM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Damar Hamlin’s sudden collapse on a football field has highlighted the importance of athletic physicians and trainers. Those with the Wolf Pack and the school district shared plans they have in place in the case of an emergency.

Concussions, broken bones, torn muscles, and knee injuries are a few of the common mishaps that can happen in the game of football.

When we look at sudden cardiac arrests in athletes, the American College of Cardiology reported in 2016 100 to 150 sudden cardiac arrests happen during competitive sports each year.

Matt Cain, Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Renown, shared what puts athletes at greater risk:

“These things, when rare, can happen to anybody. What we think happened to Damar Hamlin was a phenomenon called, Commotio cordis, which happens mostly in lacrosse, baseball, or other projectile sports where you are struck in the chest at a high velocity. This causes a lethal arrhythmia stimulating the electricity at a very vulnerable moment in the cardiac cycle,” Dr. Cain shared.

Such rarities in high-contact sports leave us to rely on the training of our athletic physicians and trainers. The sports medicine staff at the University of Nevada, Reno, and REMSA come together each year and practice those potential emergencies.

Spencer Hiett is the Associate Director of Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer. He mentioned how they prepare for emergencies.

“We run through scenarios, and we talk with our team physicians about what if this happens what if that happens and get a feel of how we’re supposed to react in these situations so that when unfortunately, something does happen we’re ready,” Hiett said.

All WCSD students are required to fill out a health questionnaire to participate in sports and get a physical by a doctor. Coaches and staff are CPR and AED certified. Concussion awareness is a program that is a requirement.

Rollins Stallworth is the Washoe County School District’s Coordinator of Athletics and Activities. He said:

“The reality is it’s not if... it’s when. We just don’t ever want not to be prepared for when it happens to us. Immediately after this situation happened on TV, that next day on our campus I sent an email to all of our coaches to all our athletic directors to hey make sure your AEDs are visible, you have them, they’re working, and know where they’re at.”

Damar Hamlin’s incident serves as a reminder of how the well-being of athletes happens before they step on the field.

Hiett continued,

“When you look at everything that goes into clearing out athletes for participation, we do expensive workups. We do a lot more than most universities we do EKG screenings for all of our athletes, and we have them all read by a cardiologist before they are cleared before being allowed to participate in their sport. It doesn’t matter if they’re a football player, track athletes, or golf athletes they all go through the same protocol. So, we’re good at finding those underlying conditions before they become an issue.”

WCSD and Nevada are on alert when it comes to these emergencies and look ahead to the football season to come,

“I want our parents and our student-athletes to know that the district is committed to making sure we are providing a safe environment for them, we provide quality coaches who are certified to help in emergencies, and let’s just hope and pray we never have one of these situations here,” Stallworth said.

“We always want players to know that we are here for them. At the end of the day, we’re here to protect them and provide the best healthcare we possibly can,” Hiett said.

For more information on cardiac health, click here.