By Mike McClure

On Jan. 3, NFL player Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest and collapse on the field shook the sports world. Meanwhile, in Delaware, local trainers sprung to action to see what they and their high schools could do to prepare for such an emergency on the local level.

“It really showed the importance of having a full-time athletic trainer (at schools),” said Sussex Tech athletic trainer Heather Heidel, who texted other athletic trainers that day. She later spoke to administrators about getting automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on sports fields.

Shown (l to r) are the local athletic trainers who attended last Friday’s Delaware Athletic Trainers’ Association seminar at Polytech High School: Carmen Beier- Woodbridge, Heather Heidel- Sussex Tech, Kasey Donalds- Delmar, Jaycie Kerrick- Woodbridge, Kathleen Kenney- Laurel, and Brian Huebler- Sussex Academy. Photo by Mike McClure

Last week athletic trainers from across the state came together for the Delaware Athletic Trainers Association (DATA) Emergency and Trauma Management Seminar. Around 32 athletic trainers from New Castle County took part in the seminar at Newark Charter Junior High School while around 25 Kent and Sussex County athletic trainers were at the seminar at Polytech High School in Woodside.

The Delaware Athletic Trainers’ Association (DATA) hosted the seminar, which was funded by the University of Delaware’s Community Engagement Initiative. Sports Medicine Emergency Management, LLC, which is made up of AT’s and EMT/Paramedics from Maryland and Michigan, put on the event. The group can teaches best practice standards for emergency and trauma situations that athletic trainers may face.

According to DATA President and Laurel Middle High School Head Athletic Trainer Kathleen Kenney, the idea behind the seminar was to help support the state’s athletic trainers and ensure they are all following best practice procedures and are up to date with new research and standards following high profile incidents such as the recent cardiac arrests of Hamlin and basketball player Bronny James.

“This is a really good opportunity,” Kenney said. “We’ve learned a lot of good skills that are applicable.”

The seminar gave local athletic trainers an opportunity to get together and collaborate while going through different scenarios such as responding to spine injuries, opioid overdoses, and cardiac arrest.

University of Delaware Senior Instructor in athletic training Jeff Schneider said the potential scenarios the athletic trainers dealt with at the seminar allowed them to work with trainers they will be working with at games and practice emergency skills in a controlled setting.

“They’re in a safe environment to make a mistake. If a mistake is made today they can learn from it,” said Schneider.

While the athletic trainers association puts out best practices and athletic trainers are required to do continuing education, the seminar gave them a hands on opportunity to practice their responses to emergency situations.

“It’s (training) one of the most important things that we do as athletic trainers,” Heidel said. “This practice helps us prepare for that situation.”

She added that the hands on experience creates muscle memory. The shared experience also helps when the trainers need to work together at games.

“You build that relationship. You build that trust,” she said.

“The best practice is the main reason we’re doing this, so we’re all on the same page,” said Carmen Beier, a former Woodbridge athletic trainer who will be moving to the classroom this year as a math teacher. “Stuff like this is awesome.”

Beier said the seminar allows athletic trainers to see how other trainers do things and learn from them. The mannequins used in the seminar also allowed the trainers to see how well they were performing CPR by measuring their depth and speed as well as procedures such as shoulder relocations which can not be practiced on people.

“We can come here and physically practice this so we are more confident with our skills,” Beier said. “It’s good that we’re all practicing this. We know we’ll be ready. It’s really good for us all to get together.”

Also participating in the seminar is new Woodbridge athletic trainer Jaycie Kerrick, a Woodbridge graduate who was a trainer at Cape Henlopen before coming back to her alma mater. Beier, who plans to keep her certificate and will float around the state to help out as an athletic trainer, was Kerrick’s mentor.

“I’m so excited. It’s good to be back,” said Kerrick.

Delmar Athletic Trainer Kasey Donalds, who completed her first year at the school last year, and Sussex Academy Athletic Trainer Brian Huebler, in his first year, also attended the seminar.