Is FAMU athletics prepared for high-level injury?

Elizabeth Bailum , FAMU Associate Athletic Trainer
Photo Courtesy: FAMU Athletics

On Jan. 2, 2023, millions gathered around their television screens to watch the Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills when they witnessed the unexpected. Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during the first quarter of the game after completing a tackle. 

Hamlin, only 24 years old, received CPR on the field before being rushed to the nearest hospital. The medical team later confirmed that Hamlin had suffered cardiac arrest. 

Hamlin’s injury received immediate attention from sports fans across the country. This tragic event has led many to ponder the safety of their favorite athletes. 

“I think seeing him collapse on the field was scary for everyone,” said Katelynn Harris, a sophomore at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. “We all know football is a high-contact sport, but seeing something like this makes you question the safety of our own athletes.” 

As the sports world continues to monitor Hamlin’s recovery, the question is, are our collegiate programs prepared for a high-level injury? 

This question was raised by fans, faculty, and staff members within the athletics programs at FAMU. 

“The Damar Hamlin situation emphasizes the fact that we are needed,” said Elizabeth Bailum, FAMU’s Associate Athletic Trainer. “We are not just taping people or handing out water on the sideline. We are healthcare providers that do preventative care treatment and rehab.”

Although it is rare for an injury as extreme as Hamlin’s to happen to an athlete, the FAMU Sports Medicine staff, composed of seven athletic trainers and four doctors, are ready to help.

“We have updated emergency action plans for each location on campus. Every year, before the first week of the football season, we have a meeting with Emergency Medical Services, our doctors, all of our student trainers, and the rest of our athletic trainers on staff,” explained Bailum. “During this meeting, we run through protocols for each sport. We are trying to cover every base to ensure that all our athletes are protected.”

FAMU is home to over a dozen sports programs. As the seasons go by, athletes are expected to perform at their highest level while also striving to maintain their physical health with the help of the Sports Medicine staff. 

Freshman football player, Tommy Bridgewater, trusts the training staff to take care of his physical health. 

“I believe in the staff’s ability to take care of us,” said Bridgewater. “They’ve got all the equipment and staff necessary to handle any situation. If something were to happen to my teammates or me, I trust we would be in good hands.”