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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 25, 2023 08:14 PM
From: Senator Marty Flynn
To: All Senate members
Subject: Requiring On-Site AEDs at School Sporting Events (Damar’s Law)
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is not only a leading cause of death across the general population in the United States, but also the leading cause of death among student athletes participating in athletic practices and competitions. During a recent professional football game, we witnessed the harrowing incident of SCA involving Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, including the immediate response from trainers and medical personnel. Thankfully, we also have seen him make tremendous strides in his recovery.

SCA is inherently an acute medical emergency which is difficult to predict through any obvious, immediate warning signs. That said, awareness surrounding how to effectively respond to SCA has grown immensely in recent years – most notably, recognition that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are a critical tool to increase survivability. According to the American Heart Association, “the single greatest determinant of survival after SCA is the time frame collapse to defibrillation, with survival rates declining 7% to 10% per minute with every minute that defibrillation is delayed.”

A 2008 study looking at a seven-year period from 2000 to 2006 found that survival rates following exercise-related SCA in young people is especially poor – only 11%. Notably, numerous studies have shown that the use of AEDs by trained or untrained bystanders and non-medical responders produce survival rates between 41% and 74%, if used in conjunction with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within 3 to 5 minutes of collapse.

Ultimately, the availability of AEDs and time are critical factors to increasing survivability following SCA. This has been recognized in the Commonwealth, as Pennsylvania schools overwhelmingly house AEDs on premise along with several staff members that are trained in proper use of AEDs. This policy has no doubt saved the lives of students and staff at our schools.

My legislation aims to recognize and address the increased risks of SCA amongst student athletes by requiring that an AED be present at any sporting event hosted by a school district. Additionally, all coaches would be required to complete training on the proper use of AEDs. These requirements would ensure that the most critical component to increasing survivability after SCA is addressed: time.

Damar Hamlin is a reminder that even elite athletes experience SCA. His recovery has been described as “miraculous” by many, though it is undeniable that the immediate response saved his life. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill to provide our student athletes with the same chance for a “miracle.”