CFL reviewing its own injury protocols in wake Damar Hamlin's near-fatal experience

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie thinks that Hamlin's injury doesn't even need to be part of the agenda, saying
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie thinks that Hamlin's injury doesn't even need to be part of the agenda, saying

It's a story that's now trending in a positive direction, but Damar Hamlin's horrific injury is providing the CFL, its executives and its head coaches with a talking point at the league's winter meetings.

Hamlin a 24-year-old safety with the Buffalo Bills, suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed during a game Jan. 2 against Cincinnati. With a North American television audience looking on, Hamlin stood up after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins before collapsing on the field.

Players from both teams surrounded Hamlin while he was being administered CPR on the field. He was reportedly also treated with an automated external defibrillator (AED) before being taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center roughly 19 minutes after collapsing.

On Monday, Hamlin was released from the intensive care unit at the Cincinnati hospital and transferred to one in Buffalo for ongoing care. That morning, Hamlin was upgraded from critical condition and met several requirements for transport, including no longer needing intensive nursing care or respiratory therapy.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said while the Hamlin incident is an agenda item on the winter meetings itinerary, it didn't need to be.

"We're going to talk about it as an agenda item but I also know it's going to come up in casual conversations because we all watched it unfold," Ambrosie said via telephone Tuesday from Kananaskis, Alta. "Nobody in the sports world who saw it wasn't affected by it.

"We're all gathering information now, we're going to revisit all of our procedures and processes. This situation, thankfully for this young man, is obviously now trending in a positive way but, boy, we sure can take lessons learned from this and make ourselves better."

On the night of Hamlin's injury, Dr. David Chao, a former NFL team physician, said on Twitter officials at Paycor Stadium were well equipped to treat the player.

"And all I can say is that you never want a young man or any person to collapse," Chao said. " But if you're going to collapse, unless you're in the hospital, there is no better place than an NFL field.

"There are over two dozen medical professionals."

CFL will look into league safety standards

According to the NFL, there are, on average, 30 health-care providers at each stadium on game day. The league also uses unaffiliated medical personnel to help identify and review injuries, including concussions.

CFL teams are required to have AED machines at their facilities for use at all practices and games and have dedicated emergency on-field personnel who are proficient in their operation. During games, the home team must ensure ambulance, paramedic and other emergency medical services are available in the stadium throughout the contest.

A paramedic ambulance unit with advance life support is also required.

While the NFL has medical tents on its sidelines, the CFL has a spotter in its command centre who has access to a camera that can see all 24 players on the field. The spotter has the authority to pull any player from a game for safety concerns.

Although Hamlin collapsed playing football, Ambrosie said his injury isn't only a football matter. Some doctors have suggested Hamlin suffered commotio cordis, a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating the result of a serious blow or injury to the chest that causes abnormal electrical activity in the organ.

"It's high-performance contact sports," Ambrosie said. "And while it's highly, highly unlikely, it does remind you the body still has its frailties."

Ambrosie said conversations initiated at these meetings could lead to the CFL tweaking or changing its medical protocols.

"It will inform a conversation we'll have at our annual medical meetings in a couple of weeks time," he said. "We'll have all of our health care providers from each team together along with our two chief medical officers so that will even further advance it.

"The nice thing about the medical meetings is the [CFL Players' Association] is involved, which is really important because we don't want to do any of this without them standing by our side. After that, if there are policy changes or tweaks that need to be made then we'll share all of that with our governors [at meeting in March] and bring this forward and share a synopsis with them."

And Ambrosie said the time between now and then will allow for further information to be gathered.

"There is still a lot to be learned here," he said. "I think we're going to be in a learning mode for some time as we learn more about exactly what happened.

"I'm quite sure some of that learning will help us moving forward, I really believe that. I think it's important to take the opportunity to learn from this."