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The on-field medical team that treated Buffalo's Damar Hamlin is being praised


We have an update this morning on the condition of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, who you may recall suffered cardiac arrest during a televised NFL game this week. The Bills say that Hamlin is showing signs of improvement, although he remains hospitalized in critical condition. Many people are praising the medical personnel who treated him in the moments after he collapsed. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: They were there kneeling over Damar Hamlin, even before ESPN broadcasters could identify him as the player lying motionless on the field.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Can't tell exactly who that is - maybe Hamlin.

GOLDMAN: The first of the first responders were from the Bills sideline. When a player's injured, trainers and doctors from the player's team generally are the first to reach the athlete, says Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer.

ALLEN SILLS: If they get out on the field and they sense that this is a significant emergency, then they will give a hand signal in addition to the radio signal. It's basically an all-call, meaning everyone come.

GOLDMAN: Monday, everyone did, including a rarely needed code leader.

SILLS: Meaning if there is a cardiac arrest, who's going to lead? Who's going to be the captain of the ship in that moment to make determinations, decisions about various aspects of the resuscitation?

GOLDMAN: The choreography of emergency response is locked in before every NFL game from preseason to the Super Bowl. The so-called 60-minute meeting happens an hour before kickoff where all the medical personnel get together and go through the highlights of an emergency action plan. The quest to improve the plan led the NFL to European football. After Danish soccer star Christian Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest in a 2021 match, Dr. Jim Ellis, the NFL's director of emergency preparedness, talked to Danish doctors about Eriksen's successful treatment on the field. It reinforced to Ellis the importance of clearly stating who's in charge.

JIM ELLIS: In a cardiac arrest situation, you do not want any kind of question around who's doing what and any uncertainty. So we want to make it very, very clear in our 60-minute meetings this year we need to designate who that code leader would be - so a minor tweak, but an important one in our mind.

GOLDMAN: A critical one for Damar Hamlin, whose heartbeat was restored on the field. NFL executive Troy Vincent, still emotionally raw from Monday's incident, made note of that medical success on a conference call yesterday.


TROY VINCENT: That evening was outstanding. You gave our brother Damar another day to live, another chance to fight.

GOLDMAN: According to the Bills, Hamlin's expected to remain under intensive care as the hospital's medical team continues to monitor and treat him.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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