CPR, emergency medical readiness a top priority at Super Bowl LVII

CPR Super Bowl Family
A family learns CPR chest compressions with an American Heart Association trainer at the Super Bowl Fan Experience in the Phoenix Convention Center on Friday. (Kierstin Lindkvist/MEDILL)

By Kierstin Lindkvist
Medill Reports

PHOENIX — After the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during a game in Week 17 of the regular season, medical readiness and CPR training are top of mind at Super Bowl LVII. 

At the Super Bowl Fan Experience in the Phoenix Convention Center, fans are taking the initiative to get CPR certified for free from experts on site. Practice CPR mannequins were on the floor synced up with an interactive virtual race game that had participants do compressions to save their mannequin’s life through Saturday.

“Fans here were very touched by Damar’s experience and wanted to make sure that they knew what to do,” said Karen Springs, director of communications and CPR instructor for the American Heart Association. “We had a kid tell the mannequin, ‘I won’t quit on you,’ and so it’s been really sweet and very exciting to see.”

“We had a lot of parents who needed to learn CPR, so I’m glad that it’s at a big event like this because I see all these kids here trying to learn, and that’s the first step,” said Denise Childs, a fan and pediatric nurse from Downingtown, Pa., in town for the Super Bowl. “Just for kids to come and get a hands-on (experience), it’s the best thing they could have done. People don’t realize compressions are hard. Kids are resilient, and they’ll remember this.” 

This is possible through a collaboration among the NFL, the American Heart Association and the Red Cross to provide CPR education and to work with coaches and others involved in youth sports to ensure they have the proper training and equipment to respond to medical emergencies, with the goal of enhancing long-term partnerships on national and local levels. 

Additionally, they will deliver financial support to further CPR education and youth sports safety efforts across the country. 

Springs said having someone around who knows how to perform CPR can double or triple the survival rate from a cardiac arrest episode and allow medical personnel to arrive on the scene if needed.

“It absolutely saved Damar Hamlin’s life to have that high-quality CPR and those medical professionals on hand who know what they’re doing, but that doesn’t happen for every cardiac arrest that happens outside of the hospital,” she said. “It gives us that critical time to have some help and make sure more people survive.”

CPR Super Bowl Buttons
Buttons were given to participants who completed CPR training at the American Red Cross’ booth at the Super Bowl Fan Experience. (Kierstin Lindkvist/MEDILL)

February is American Heart Month, and Springs added that even before Hamlin’s Week 17 emergency, the organization’s theme was “be the beat”: challenging one person in every family to learn CPR.

“We really want folks to get involved if they see an emergency happen in front of them, so if you see a teen or an adult suddenly collapse, you call 911 and you push hard and fast in the center of the chest,” Springs said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also emphasized the need for this emergency readiness training — even testing his skills on one of the mannequins on site.

“Being able to deliver care in emergency situations is not just important at sporting events, but in all walks of life,” he said in a recent news conference. “The tools and training exist to keep young athletes safe — we embrace our responsibility to ensure that knowledge is in as many hands as possible for the greatest positive impact.”

In addition to the fan experience training, some local hospitals have been prepping with more emergency readiness drills ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Banner Health has multiple locations in the Phoenix metro area, including Estrella Hospital and Banner Boswell Medical Center, which are just eight to 12 minutes away from State Farm Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LVII.  A spokesperson for Banner said its facilities across the area are equipped to handle health care needs that may arise with the influx of visitors for the Super Bowl and other significant events during that time frame, including collaborating with personnel inside State Farm Stadium.

“We have been working for many months with our external partners to ensure our teams have all the relevant information to keep our patients, team members and visitors safe,” said Corey Schubert, senior marketing and public relations specialist at Banner Health. “Our emergency management team has been providing briefings, training and exercising our preparedness plans with our team members so they will be able to effectively respond to any situation that may arise from all the activities occurring in the Phoenix valley.”

Kierstin Lindkvist is a Medill graduate student in sports media specialization. Follow her on Twitter @KLindkvistNews or Instagram @kelindkvist, and connect with her on LinkedIn.