By Lydia Jane Allison
Nina Hamlin to serve in special role as Honorary Chairwoman of coalition’s Ambassadors Advisory Council
NEW YORK (October 13, 2023) – As October marks Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, the NFL today announced that the Smart Heart Sports Coalition has expanded to 37 member organizations.
Founded in March 2023 in response to the life-saving emergency response and care provided to Damar Hamlin, the coalition seeks to drive the adoption in all 50 states of evidence-based policies that will prevent fatalities from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) among high school students and in school communities. The coalition comprises major sports leagues and organizations, as well as leading patient and health advocacy groups across the country.
New members represent parties along the chain of survival essential to recognizing and treating sudden cardiac arrest. Organizations joining the coalition include: Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC); The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); John Taylor Babbit Foundation; Citizen CPR Foundation (CCPRF); National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT); National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS); the Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society (PACES); Sports Safety International (SSI); Starting Hearts; the Max Harry Weil Institute for Critical Care Research and Innovation (Weil Institute) at the University of Michigan; and Who We Play For.
“We’re thrilled these organizations have joined our coalition with the shared goal and commitment of advancing life-saving policies for students in every state,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy. “These groups will add to the coalition’s impact as we continue to engage in a vigorous, coordinated, and sustained advocacy effort to make school communities safer and more resilient.”
Since the coalition’s outreach and advocacy efforts began, California signed into law a bill that provides the state and its student athletes robust versions of all three policies promoted by the coalition, and several other states have moved to enact one or more of the evidence-based policies proven to prevent death from SCA, including New Mexico, Kentucky, Indiana, and Louisiana. The coalition is engaged with policymakers in more states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, and recently held a day of action at each statehouse to urge lawmakers to enact life-saving measures.
In addition to the expansion of the coalition, Nina Hamlin, Damar Hamlin’s mother, will serve as the Honorary Chairwoman of the coalition’s Ambassadors Advisory Council. This new group comprises current and former professional athletes from all sports, as well as other notable figures who will serve as advocates and spokespeople for the coalition’s state-level advocacy. Council members will engage in a range of activities and activations to raise awareness of the crucial policies to prevent SCA-related deaths among students.
“I’m pleased and humbled to accept the invitation to serve in this new role,” said Nina Hamlin, who helps to support her son’s Chasing M’s Foundation. “This work is another way for me to support Damar’s role as an advocate and his ongoing work off the field to make sure kids across the country have the same access to life-saving care that he did, if and when they need it.”
The NFL Foundation is also providing financial support to the American Heart Association’s Nation of Lifesavers campaign. This multi-year initiative is focused on school communities, teaching and training students, educators, and families how to be ready and respond to a cardiac emergency with the life-saving skill of Hands-Only CPR. With this additional grant funding, the NFL Foundation has now provided a total of more than $1 million to ensure schools and communities nationwide are better prepared and equipped to save the lives of those who experience sudden cardiac arrest.
“This is another important step in our long-standing partnership with the American Heart Association, which also is a founding member of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility. “We look forward to continuing to work with the AHA to make our school communities safer places by teaching students and educators Hands-Only CPR. Together, we can help build a nation of lifesavers, one student, one school at a time.”
“As long-term collaborators, this represents a natural evolution of the American Heart Association and the NFL partnership, which has focused on children’s mental and physical well-being through NFL PLAY 60,” explained Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “Meeting children where they are in fun and engaging ways inspires children to get excited about health, including learning Hands-Only CPR. Together we are enhancing health outcomes both at home and beyond.”
New coalition members expressed their support of coalition efforts and optimism about the adoption of life-saving policies in states across the country:
Anekwe Onwuanyi, M.D., President, Association of Black Cardiologists
“As chief advocates for heart health in the Black community, the Association of Black Cardiologists is honored to join the NFL’s Smart Heart Sports Coalition. By organizations coming together, the coalition has the power to ensure that laws are in place in every state to require that schools be equipped to handle a sudden cardiac arrest when it occurs on school grounds or at a sporting event. When schools have emergency action plans in place and access to AEDs, as well as adequately trained personnel for the device and in CPR, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of a positive outcome when sudden cardiac arrest happens.”
Bill Roberts, M.D., FACSM, Chief Medical Officer, American College of Sports Medicine
“The American College of Sports Medicine proudly supports the NFL’s Smart Heart Sports Coalition because we all share the same priority of protecting young athletes. Together with our fellow coalition members, we look forward to helping achieve the worthy goal of preventing fatal outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest.”
JoAnne Taylor Babbitt, Vice President, John Taylor Babbitt Foundation
“The John Taylor Babbitt Foundation is proud to participate in the Smart Heart Sports Coalition’s nationwide initiative to save lives from sudden cardiac death. Sudden cardiac arrest in young people is not rare and can occur at any time or any place and often without warning. With the availability of AEDs and CPR, survival from sudden cardiac arrest improves drastically. Learning how to respond timely to these events and the development of an emergency response plan is easy and critical to creating a heart safe environment for our youth.”
Stuart Berger, M.D., President, Citizen CPR Foundation
“The Citizen CPR Foundation is honored to be a member of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition and join with other leading health advocacy groups as well as major sports organizations. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves alongside the partners to make every community HeartSafe and develop a ‘Damar Hamlin’ response for the more than 375,000 sudden cardiac arrests that happen to ordinary citizens in the U.S. every year and do our part to advocate for crucial policies that will save the lives of young people who experience SCA throughout the country.”
Susan Bailey, President, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT)
“NAEMT is very pleased to join the Smart Heart Sports Coalition. Paramedics and EMTs regularly provide on-site support at sporting events for all types of athletes and education on CPR and AEDs to community residents. We understand the important roles of the public and EMS personnel in saving cardiac patients. We look forward to working with all of the coalition partners to achieve its mission.”
Karissa Niehoff, Ed.D., Chief Executive Officer, National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
“The National Federation of State High School Associations is proud to be a part of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition. With experts from multiple organizations that implement youth sports, the coalition will be able to influence policies and best practices regarding cardiac events in sports.”
Jeffrey J. Kim, M.D., FHRS, FACC, President, The Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society (PACES)
“The Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society (PACES) is proud to serve on the Smart Heart Sports Coalition, and we wholeheartedly support the initiative to ensure young athletes are surrounded by the safest practices possible. By advancing life-saving policies related to cardiac arrest, including advocacy regarding CPR training, AED availability and use, and acceleration of resuscitation science, we believe we can truly make a difference together.”
Robb Rehberg, PhD, ATC, NREMT, Founder, Sport Safety International
“Sport Safety International is excited to join the Smart Heart Sports Coalition and looks forward to engaging with the NFL, member organizations, policy makers, and others to advocate for measures to prevent the number one cause of death in young athletes: sudden cardiac arrest. For over a decade, SSI’s mission has been to promote safe participation in sport and physical activity through education. Accordingly, we are committed to actively supporting the coalition’s mission, and eager to work collaboratively to make sports safer for young athletes.”
Alan Himelfarb, Executive Director, Starting Hearts
“Starting Hearts is honored to join the NFL and this dedicated group of professional organizations as a new member of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition. Our mission is to save precious lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims, too many of whom are our young athletes. As passionate educators, we strive every day through our age-appropriate curriculum to empower students and adults across the nation with the skills and confidence to provide early care when needed. We are truly grateful to the NFL and founding coalition members for leading this important initiative.”
Dr. Bob Neumar, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan
“The Max Harry Weil Institute for Critical Care Research and Innovation is delighted to partner with the Smart Heart Sports Coalition. We envision a future state where it is the expectation that athletes will survive sudden cardiac arrest, and believe this can be achieved through advocacy, education, training, research, and innovation. It will take a team effort, and we are excited to be on the team.”
Ralph Maccarone, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Who We Play For
“Who We Play For is proud to support the Smart Health Sports Coalition in their mission to raise awareness and the prevention of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in student athletes.”
About the Smart Heart Sports Coalition
Launched in March 2023, the Smart Heart Sports Coalition comprises major sports leagues and organizations as well as leading health, and patient advocacy groups. The coalition’s goal is for every state across the country to adopt evidence-based policies proven to prevent fatalities from sudden cardiac arrest among high school athletes, including:
- An athletic emergency action plan (EAP) that is venue specific, widely distributed, posted, rehearsed, and updated annually.
- Clearly marked AEDs at each venue or within minutes of each venue where high school practices or competitions are held.
- CPR education, including AED training, for coaches.