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Damar Hamlin’s Recovery: What a U.S. Worker Deserves

Health and Gender Policy Brief #152 | By: Geoffrey Small | January 8, 2023

Header photo taken from: the Buffalo Bills Press Conference

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Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest highlights need for equipment, training in all situations and scenarios, especially workplaces in the U.S. and globally.

Photo taken from: Penn State Health

Policy Summary

On January 2nd, 2023 NFL Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered from cardiac arrest after a tackle to the chest during a Monday-night football game with the Cincinnati Bengals. As he laid motionless on the field for approximately ten minutes, first responders applied CPR, an AED (automated external defibrillation), oxygen, and an intravenous solution in order to prevent brain damage that can occur after cardiac arrest. Medical experts have speculated that Hamlin suffered from Commotio cordis, which can happen when trauma to the chest disrupts the electrical charge to the heart.

The first responders managed to restore his heartbeat on the field. Approximately a half hour after his cardiac arrest, Hamlin was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center by ambulance. He was reported in critical condition after his arrival and was intubated. Hamlin later regained consciousness on January 5th and had the breathing tube removed the following day. His medical team eventually reported that Hamlin had full control over his bodily functions and feeling in all of his extremities. 

Without a quick response from highly trained medical staff in the NFL and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, this event may have resulted in severe brain damage or death. Hamlin is a professional athlete employed in the NFL, where highly trained medical staff and technology are required to be on standby during games, practices, and facility-based training. If medical experts concur that Hamlin suffered from Commotio cordis, it may also be concluded that this event was a freak accident, which happened to a highly trained professional athlete at the pinnacle of his health.

Comparatively, most U.S. workplaces do not have the same level of medical response that teams in the NFL provide. However, cardiac arrest is far more common with the average U.S. worker. Exploring the data related to cardiac arrest, and the federal regulations when responding to an event in the work place, may offer some insight into how our system can change to give U.S. workers similar support that was provided to Hamlin.

Policy Analysis

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, brain cells begin to die after five minutes of oxygen deprivation, also known as cerebral hypoxia. That is why medical experts agree that a trained CPR and first-aid responder may be the difference between life or death during cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association states that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reports 10,000 cardiac arrests in U.S. workplaces annually. 

Only 45.7% of people who experience Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest receive the immediate help they need before professional medical help arrives. Approximately 51% of U.S. workers can’t locate an AED, a device that was instrumental in restoring Hamlin’s heartbeat. That number rises to 66% in the hospitality industry. 55% of U.S. workers don’t receive first-aid, CPR, and AED training from their employer.

OSHA does not require employers to provide first-aid or CPR training. OSHA does not have regulations that require U.S workplaces to have AEDs. This is in spite of the fact that 9 out of 10 victims of cardiac arrest who receive a shock within the first five minutes from an AED live.

Infographic taken from: AHA Mediagenic

(click or tap to enlargen)

Infographic taken from: AHA Journals

(click or tap to enlargen)

Hamlin’s cardiac arrest has highlighted the benefits of having employees trained in first-aid, CPR, and AED administration. It’s the difference between life or death. 

Having trained CPR employees and an AED on-site is beneficial, despite the lack of federal regulations requiring employers to have them. Also, 65% of employees surveyed by the American Heart Association would view their employers more positively if they provided CPR training.  

Donating to the American Heart Association can help spread awareness that government regulations need to improve. Also, please donate to Damar Hamlin’s toy drive.

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