Skip to main content

Jan 18, 2023

Damar Hamlin event proves CPR a great resource to have in everyday toolbox

Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest in front of millions of Monday Night Football fans forced us to realize how important trained, on-site medical staff is to each event and the value in being versed in CPR.

When Hamlin experienced cardiac arrest, the first person to him that Monday was Buffalo Bills’ assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington (DPT, ATC), who, after checking – and seeing that Hamlin had no pulse – administered CPR.

Kellington, it was reported, reached Hamlin’s side in 9 seconds. 

Recently discharged from the hospital, Hamlin, the Bills’ second-year safety, is alive thanks to Kellington’s quick actions and his working knowledge of CPR, proving just how valuable trained medical professionals are to have on site for athletic events and the importance of knowing CPR. 

Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Misti Thompson says CPR is a valuable life skill we all should work to learn.

“There are a variety of ways to go about learning CPR or becoming CPR certified,’’ said Thompson, ATC/L/ Regional Athletic Training Coordinator and athletic trainer at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Xavier High School. For many years, Rock Valley Physical Therapy has been providing certified athletic trainers for schools across its regional landscape.

“You can visit the Red Cross ( or American Heart Association websites (, to view classes being taught in your area,’’ added Thompson. “Recently, they have allowed you to take an online course to learn and review the content and then find someone to test you on the skills you learned to receive your certification. Many hospitals and fire departments also offer such classes. Some high schools bring professionals in to teach students. I also believe that children taking their babysitting courses are also required to know CPR, so it is not just limited to adults.’’

Understanding the workings of CPR is an important skill to have no matter what your calling in life might be. The goal is to never have to put it to use, but it remains an amazing and vital capability to have in one’s everyday toolbox..

“Knowing how to recognize when CPR is needed and the proper steps of initiating CPR is  important,’’ said the ever-dedicated and hard-working Thompson. “For each minute that CPR and defibrillation are delayed, the victim’s chances of survival are reduced by about 10 percent. Many states have a Good Samaritan law protecting those doing the best they can with the knowledge they have trying to save someone’s life so your skills do not have to be perfect. It only takes one person to step into action to be able to potentially save a life. The bystander effect is real so for someone to know they have the knowledge and the confidence to step in and take action gives the victim the best chance of survival. That person may be someone on the street or in the mall or someone you love in your own home.’’

Thompson, who earned her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from the University of Iowa, echoed what many across the country – and world – have come to understand in the days following the Hamlin incident. It is vital to have medical personnel on site of all athletic events.

“Athletic trainers play a vital role in injury prevention and responding in emergency situations,’’ said Thompson. “Even before an emergency arises, athletic trainers are preparing and educating. We create an Emergency Action Plan for each venue or any possible situation one could think of.”

“They (ATCs) write it, then rehearse it,’’ added Thompson. “They rehearse it in their minds and with their coaches and appropriate personnel. They review it with some sort of medical timeout prior to each event so everyone involved knows their role so things can run as smoothly as they did for the Bills’ scary scenario. It’s something that we hope we never have to use but are prepared if we do.’’

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller