After Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, NJ has a plan for athletes

For Darrell Rogers, what happened to Buffalo Bills fullback Damar Hamlin hit close to home.

Watching Hamlin collapse on the field after suffering cardiac arrest in a game earlier this month, he knew what it was like. It happened to him in 2018.

As a sophomore at Matawan High School, Rogers collapsed during an AAU practice. He suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and had to be revived with on-court CPR by two technicians, as did Hamlin.

“My mom was crying,” Rogers said. “I was reminding her of me.”

Rogers was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, spent four days on a ventilator, and had to relearn how to walk and talk within three months in the hospital.

Now in his 20s and studying online college at South University, Rogers is doing well. Like Hamlin, that quick medical intervention, getting CPR as quickly as he did, is why Rogers is still here.

“It saved my life,” said Rogers. “I could be more confused than I already was.”

Rogers says the main takeaway from the Hamlin scare must be this – the more people who become CPR certified and prepared for such situations, the better.

The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and the American Heart Association (cpr.heart.org/en/training-programs) offer in-person and online training in CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) use.

More: The collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was shocking. What can we learn from this?

Legislation on the books

When it comes to cardiac safety for young athletes, New Jersey has been ahead of the curve for some time. On the same subject : KHS, KMS Cheer Squads Take First in Hardin County Fair Cheerleading Competition. This is largely due to some definitive legislation that has been on the books for years.

State Senator Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, defended many of the measures. He sponsored Janet’s Law – named after Warren Township cheerleader Janet Zilinski, 11, who died in August 2006 at cheerleading practice due to sudden cardiac arrest – and was signed into law by the then governor. Chris Christie in 2012. Requires that all schools have defibrillators on hand and at least one individual (typically a technician) trained in CPR and defibrillation to be present at all practices and events. Diegnan also sponsored the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, which mandates that student-athletes, parents and coaches be informed about sudden cardiac arrest and created protocols for removing athletes with symptoms of cardiac arrest.

All student-athletes age 19 and under must also undergo a pre-participation physical assessment before participating in any school athletics in hopes of identifying any existing heart conditions, a bill passed in 2015. Emergency Action Plan, legislation that requires schools to create emergency action plans that take place in the event of a serious or life-threatening sports injury.

Of all the issues facing a New Jersey legislator, Diegnan said he spent a lot of time sponsoring those laws after hearing the tragic story of Edison’s Kittim Sherrod, who died in 2009 after collapsing while training with the high school track team.

“This should never have happened if a defibrillator had been in place,” Diegnan said. “It brought the whole matter to my attention.”

Laws are critical. It does not leave heart health in the prerogatives of the school board. It’s a mandate, and one that works silently.

“This is one of those things where no news is literally good news,” Diegnan said. “Not picking up the paper in the morning or not being in a restaurant and having a parent come in and recount a tragic situation, that in itself shows that it’s working.”

And then there are the stories that make the news, but this time they have a much happier ending. There’s the story of Darrell Rogers. There’s the story of a Colonia High School basketball player whose life was saved with a defibrillator in 2016. There’s the story of Damar Hamlin.

Diegnan believes there is still more work to be done. He believes that more thorough tests should be required before participating in sports, but high medical costs are a major hurdle for many families.

Your advice to other lawmakers? Listen to what the medical experts are saying and act on it.

“Listen, observe and accept the opinion of those who deal with this every day,” said Diegnan. “The thing about having the ability to influence how laws are made is realizing that you don’t have all the answers.”

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 that would require AEDs to be present at any venue hosting youth athletic events outside of school-sanctioned leagues, but it was vetoed by Christie. The former governor cited the project’s broad scope in his veto message.

“While I support efforts to improve emergency precautions in youth sports, I cannot ignore the reasonable concerns expressed by municipalities, counties, and non-profit youth athletic leagues regarding the scope and impact of the bill,” Christie wrote. . “In particular, the bill would require virtually every coach on a youth sports team – typically an unpaid volunteer or parent – ​​to bring an AED to all practices and games, if a device is not already in place. As a result, countless municipalities, counties and non-profit youth athletic leagues would have to buy thousands of AEDs and rely on coaches to ensure device availability at every practice and game.”

Similar bills have been introduced in three subsequent legislative sessions, including the current one. Among the sponsors of the latest proposal is Representative Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic, former head football coach at Hackensack High School and current assistant at St. Louis. Joseph High School in Montvale.

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What NJ athletic leagues are doing

Dr. J. Christopher Mendler is chairman of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee within the NJSIAA, the governing body of high school athletics in New Jersey. On the same subject : This is Arnold in the locker room, facing difficulties | An interview. By following state laws, the NJSIAA and the Department of Education work together on student athlete health.

As a medical professional, Mendler sees these laws and protocols as crucial to preventing the worst outcome in sudden cardiac arrest. All regulations save precious seconds and minutes, which literally can be the difference between life and death.

“When you’re talking about cardiac arrest when the heart stops beating, you have about four minutes to start getting oxygen to the brain or the brain is going to start to damage,” Mendler said. “Effective CPR can help get through this until an AED is available or more definitive treatment is available.”

Mendler believes the biggest lesson schools can learn from Damar Hamlin’s situation is to study emergency plans well. Make sure the defibrillator is accessible and working. What are the steps and are they still valid?

Schools should work closely with the local EMS to figure out how an ambulance can get to the gym or athletic field.

“The main take-home lesson is the reminder that this isn’t just theory, these things happen,” Mendler said. “When they happen, the more experienced and familiar with the protocol people are, the better. It is important to make sure to review and update and make appropriate changes.”

It’s not just school athletics that needs safety measures, though those are state mandated leagues.

Vinnie Santaniello is the owner of the Shore Thing Wrestling Club, a training facility based in Lakewood. He is a former Brick Memorial standout and the father of sons Vincent and Anthony, who have amassed seven state medals, each winning a state title.

Santaniello is not subject to the same laws as schools, but it still takes precautions. An employee of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, he is certified in CPR, as are his two assistant trainers.

Although he learned to use a defibrillator during CPR training, he does not own or have one on site. He feels he and his team are prepared to handle a situation like Damar Hamlin’s should it arise.

“If something like this happened, we could do basic CPR,” Santaniello said. “We all took the basic CPR classes… I have to update mine every year and go through the different classes.”

For Rogers, he is grateful that two people available in his AAU practice know about CPR. In his eyes, it’s the most important thing that can be done.

After all, he knows best. It saved your life.

“I think every technician should be trained in CPR,” said Rogers. “All leagues should have it.”

Steve Falk contributed reporting to this story.

Danny LoGiudice has been covering local sports in New Jersey since 2014. Reach him at dlogiudice@gannettnj.com or @danny_logiudice on Twitter.

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