Athletic trainers on football field to save Damar Hamlin trained in Avon

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AVON, N.Y. Many of the athletic trainers who ran onto the field to save Damar Hamlin’s life were trained in Avon.

And it trained them for moments like the one they faced Monday night. During the Bills game, Mike Cendoma was playing cards with his kids when his phone started going off.

“It was just bling, bling, bling, bling…” he said. “And it was too much, an indication that something was going on.”

It was his staff alerting him to Hamlin’s collapse. His first thought — it was a heart issue.

“But my second thought was — in football?” Cendoma said.

Cendoma runs Sports Medicine Concepts in Avon. He was inspired to do this when he was a young athletic trainer in Buffalo and had to take care of a high school football player with a spinal injury.

“And a moment later you’re out on the field and you realize what you didn’t know a couple of moments ago,” he said. “You weren’t prepared for the emotional part of that type of event.”
Cendoma showed me video of some of the simulations they use to teach NFL athletic trainers like the ones on the field Monday night.

They pump crowd noise into the room. They create environments that look, feel, sound and smell as real as possible.

“You have a very small opportunity. If you do things the right way, people walk away,” he said. “If you aren’t ready to exploit that opportunity, the outcome could be different.”

Sports Medicine Concepts started working with NFL teams in 2010. They got hired by the whole league three years ago. They track everything in training, from the cadence of the CPR to the time it takes to give medicine. They work to improve reaction times by as little as a second.