Guilford County Schools athletic trainers explain how they keep athletes safe in the wake of Damar Hamlin

21 January 2023

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s been 18 days since Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since then, he has been making remarkable strides in his recovery. That moment on the field brought new attention to automated external defibrillators—also known as AEDs.

Damar Hamlin’s family shares update on condition, expresses gratitude

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association requires districts to have certified trainers at all football and wrestling games and practices. In Guilford County Schools, you’ll also find them on the sidelines of other sports ready to respond in case of emergency.

These high school trainers want you to know this type of thing doesn’t just happen at big, televised sporting events. It can happen to anyone, at any age and at any time.

“Seeing a primetime game where you had a healthy, completely healthy male who really had no cardiac history going from zero to arrhythmia in matter of seconds, I think it hits home,” said Dr. Steven Bokshan, an orthopedic surgeon with Cone Health. “I think it’s just that could have been anyone’s son that could have been anyone’s brother.”

Dr. Bokshan and Kinley McKay work alongside each other for Cone Health, which partners with Guilford County Schools to provide trainers during athletic events You might notice the two behind the bench ready to wrap a player’s wrist or give an examination.

“I mean these are lifesaving interventions that I think can literally make all the world,” said Dr. Bokshan.

These two have seen plenty of scary situations over the years. As an orthopedic trainer, McKay has responded to a situation similar to Damar Hamlin’s at a basketball practice.

“Really, you just kind of zone out and you trust your training,” she said. “You lock in. This is what you’re focused on. Everything else in the world goes away.”

Those experiences have made her more aware of what’s going on when her child hits the court.

“You have to analyze everything, and you have to step into this role ready for any emergency that could potentially happen,” said McKay.

Sometimes there isn’t a trainer on site.

“We had weeks where we had no athletic certified trainer because there was none to be found in the county,” said Jason Allred, the athletic director at Northwest Guilford High School.

When that happens, a coach can step in. All Guilford County head and assistant coaches are required to be CPR, concussion protocol and AED certified.

Each middle and high school has at least one AED. At Northwest, there are three, which can be moved around.

As a parent, Dr. Bokshan knows how hard it can be to watch your child play a sport.

“We know injuries are going to happen,” he said. “Seeing doc on the sideline I think gives us all a little bit of peace of mind and that’s what I live for.”

If you’re an athlete, these trainers encourage you to introduce yourself to them. That way if you do get injured, you’re more comfortable getting treatment.

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