BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NFL is growing its coalition of sports organizations and medical and advocacy groups and expanding its work to help prevent fatalities from cardiac arrest following the events of Jan. 2, when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati.
After increased attention to cardiac arrest and the dangers of what can happen if the proper resources and training aren’t available, the NFL announced Thursday morning that it is expanding The Smart Hearts Sports Coalition to include 15 new members — bringing the total to 26 — with the goal of advocating for all 50 states to adopt policies that will help prevent fatalities from sudden cardiac arrest among athletes.
New members include the WNBA, National Women’s Soccer League, United States Tennis Association and National Council of Youth Sports. The coalition, which also includes Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation, was initially announced during the NFL owners meetings in March.
“One of the sort of silver linings of what ends up happening in these national moments is that you end up educating millions of people,” Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility, told ESPN. “What we do here at the league is sort of say, ‘OK, like that was a really, a frightening moment, a scary moment and an unreal, surreal moment, but what good can come from that now that everybody is talking about this?'”
The NFL Foundation also is launching its CPR education grant later this month, which will make $20,000 available to all 32 teams. Up to $15,000 will go to funding for CPR education and up to $5,000 for AEDs for high school sports teams. Isaacson said the goal for the rest of the funds, totaling $1 million, is to make sure the league is supporting areas of the country outside of NFL markets.
Since the coalition was founded, three states — New Mexico, Kentucky and Indiana — have taken action to enact one or more of the three best-practices policies for which the coalition is advocating. The coalition has engaged with policymakers in three other states — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan — where legislatures are still in session.
The announcement comes at the start of National CPR and AED Awareness Week, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressing the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable on Thursday. The league and clubs also are offering CPR education, including 15 teams planning to or having held events or donation efforts. The Bills will host their first of two large-scale CPR trainings Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
“Even if we could take those numbers, the percentage of those who survive and have a good outcome, up from 10% to 20% to 30%, that would be, you’re talking about thousands of thousands of lives, right, which is really inspiring,” Isaacson said.
Hamlin announced in April that he was physically cleared to return to football, and the Bills have continued to take his progress back one day at a time, coach Sean McDermott said. Hamlin has attended the Bills’ two organized team activity sessions open to the media and has been a limited participant in some individual drills. He also spoke at an event on Capitol Hill in support of the Access to AEDs act.