How Raiders, other NFL teams prepare for in-game medical emergencies

A Las Vegas Raider helmet during the Las Vegas Raiders v the Denver Broncos of an NFL football...
A Las Vegas Raider helmet during the Las Vegas Raiders v the Denver Broncos of an NFL football game Sunday, November 20, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Bart Young)(Bart Young | AP)
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 11:27 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - CPR on the field and an ambulance taking a player to the hospital. Monday night in Cincinnati represented the worst-case scenario.

“This was unprecedented. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Las Vegas Raiders Chief Medical Officer Dr. Navdeep Singh said.

Singh and his team’s preparation for emergency response during games have no offseason. All year round they prepare for the worst-case emergencies.

“Anyone who’s involved with game day care convenes and we go through these emergency medical scenarios. We’re critiqued, given feedback and we kind of constantly refine the process,” Singh said.

An hour before every NFL game medical staff meets to review what they call an Emergency Action Plan for the particular stadium. This is to ensure everyone knows their role in case of an emergency that could include head trauma, a spinal injury or even cardiac arrest.

“It goes through how do you handle that situation in the moment, who are the people involved in that situation and where are the hospitals you are going to go to,” Singh explained.

In Las Vegas that hospital is University Medical Center.

The average NFL team has 30 game-day medical staff, according to the National Football League Physicians Society. That includes four athletic trainers, two primary care physicians and an independent neurotrauma consultant.

“Just because it’s never happened doesn’t mean it won’t. So we want to be prepared as much as we can,” Singh said.

There are even positions like an airway management physician, which is a doctor that has experience in controlling an airway in an emergency situation.

“If somebody were to break their neck, you needed to have life support or a tube put in your throat to help you breathe this expert is there waiting for that to happened, Singh said. “They are prepared for that to happen.”

At the college level, like UNLV athletics, there is always a team ready for medical response too.

“We’re very fortunate in Clark County that our high schools have athletic trainers and UNLV has athletic trainers, but this is not the norm. In our country less than half of high schools have athletic trainers,” UNLV director of athletic training Tedd Girouard said.

Like the collegiate and pro level, the Clark County School District said it has automated external defibrillators at sporting events. An AED is used to save someone if their heart stops.

“We have exponentially more athletes playing high school sports or club level sports, so these things do occur,” Girouard said. “But it doesn’t always reach the media, because it’s not the NFL. It’s not Monday Night Football.”

The Raiders team doctors met with the players Wednesday and answered any of the questions they had about Monday’s emergency.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in the hospital in critical condition with signs of improvement, according to the Bills organization.