While Damar Hamlin was fortunate to have trained professionals on the sidelines when he collapsed during a game in January and went into cardiac arrest, most Vermont high schools don’t employ them.

And when Hamlin went down, the few athletic trainers who do exist at the high school level, took notice.

“Definitely get that pit in your stomach thinking about being in the situation myself,” said Megan Quiet, the trainer at Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol. “A huge part of your job as an athletic trainer is being prepared and focusing on the worst-case scenario.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death among young athletes. However, one-third of high schools nationwide don’t employ athletic trainers, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.

“That’s a concern for me,” said Devin Wendell, athletic director at Mount Abraham. “To think of sending kids outside into these contact and collision sports 100 kids at a time with nobody there to oversee the medical care for these kids, that’s a concern for me.”

According to the Vermont Principals’ Association, all high school coaches are required to be trained in CPR. Wendell that’s not enough.

“It’s not on the coaches and shouldn’t be up to coaches to make medical decisions. It should be medical people making medical decisions,” said Wendell.

Even schools that have an athletic trainer face challenges when having to split time between multiple games. “When hours are crunched, you gotta pick and choose what events are covered and what isn’t,” said Wendell.

The school also uses an app for coaches that gives them access to emergency action plans in real-time. “It has all our coach contacts. Different tabs on the bottom. It’s something the coaches can have on their phones,” said Wendell.

The athletic training position at Mount Abraham became full-time in 2022, and their athletic director is hoping to see other schools take similar steps.