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After NFL Accident, Doctors Urge People To Learn CPR

The horrific gridiron accident of Damar Hamlin is not only shining a new spotlight on the dangers of football but has also caused doctors to remind people how important it is to know CPR.

Doctors and other emergency medical professionals are calling on the public to familiarize themselves with lifesaving CPR techniques after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati.

Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin is examined during the first half of an NFL football game against...

Hamlin received CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to restore his heartbeat on the field, the Bills said in a statement. The NFL said separately that Hamlin received immediate attention from his team’s medics, as well as independent medical staffers and local paramedics.

The Bills tweeted Wednesday that he remained in critical condition but had shown “signs of improvement” late Tuesday.

The American Heart Association said it saw a 200% increase in web traffic to its CPR site after news of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest emerged.

“The lesson with Damar is that getting [CPR] started probably, as soon as possible, is the one thing that saved his life. He had the advantage of having health care staff in the field when most individuals in the United States don’t,” said Dr. Paul Chan, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

How to Do CPR: Steps, Guidelines, Speed, and More

Most cardiac arrests in the U.S. — more than 350,000 a year — occur outside hospitals. Roughly 90% of those patients don’t survive, often because they don’t get medical attention right away.

In about half of adult cases outside hospitals, there are no bystanders around to witness a person’s collapse.

“With every minute of delay, there’s a 7 to 10% decrease in survivability,” said Dr. Michael Emery, a sports cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

That having been said, CPR is “the most profound, life-changing thing you could potentially learn and do for someone,” he added.

Learning CPR is like learning to tie your shoes — “it’s not hard,” said Dr. Jayne Morgan, a cardiologist at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. She estimated that thousands of lives are saved every year by bystander CPR.

Still, doctors say that there are two factors that prevent people from delivering the lifesaving procedure: They’re afraid to make a mistake, or they haven’t received proper training.

But, Dr. Chan said most states have good Samaritan laws that protect people from potential legal repercussions of administering CPR in emergency settings. The AHA also has a playlist to help people achieve the right rhythm.

Doctors noted that formal CPR training, which often involves practicing on a dummy, is preferable to familiarizing yourself with the techniques online.

“You can certainly learn a lot by reading it online, and you can certainly watch videos and understand and learn the technique, but, ultimately, the best thing is to actually get into a class so you can actually practice,” Morgan said.

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