Professional Sports and Leading Public Health, Nonprofit and Patient Advocacy Organizations Will Advocate State Adoption of Best Practice Medical Emergency Policies

NFL Foundation Commits $1 Million in Grants to Support Nationwide CPR Education, AED Access

PHOENIX, March 27, 2023 — The National Football League today announced the launch of The Smart Heart Sports Coalition, a collaboration among the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, NCAA, the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Korey Stringer Institute, National Athletic Trainers’ Association and Damar Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation. The Smart Heart Sports Coalition is advocating for all 50 states to adopt evidence-based policies that will prevent fatal outcomes from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) among high school students. 

The coalition is advocating for the implementation of three best practice policies to prevent death from Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

  1. Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for each high school athletic venue that are widely distributed, posted, rehearsed, and updated annually;
  2. Clearly marked automated external defibrillator (AEDs) at each athletic venue or within 1-3 minutes of each venue where high school practices or competitions are held; and,
  3. CPR and AED education for coaches.

Currently only seven states have implemented all three best practice policies; 12 states have none. SCA is a life-threatening emergency that can quickly become fatal if proper steps are not immediately taken. As many as 23,000 people under the age of 18 experience SCA annually (out-of-hospital). It is the leading cause of death for student athletes. Sports-related SCA accounted for nearly 40% of SCAs among people under the age of 18. If implemented across all 50 states, these simple, cost-effective strategies can prevent deaths from SCA.

To mark the beginning of this effort, The Smart Heart Sports Coalition today sent letters to the Governors of 43 states where additional polices – whether through legislation or regulation – are needed. The coalition will follow up with a proactive, coordinated and sustained effort to encourage policymakers and stakeholders across the country to adopt these policies within the next three years.

As part of this campaign, the NFL Foundation has committed more than $1 million in grants to support nationwide CPR education and AED access. The NFL Foundation will make available to each NFL club $20,000 in grants to promote CPR education and training. NFL clubs may leverage these grants to partner with public or private nonprofit organizations to support CPR education wherever needed, including, for example, among youth and student athlete programs, elementary and secondary schools, and the general population. The NFL Foundation club grants will also support high schools – especially those in financially distressed communities – in purchasing and maintaining AEDs. With this targeted funding, clubs may help states meet the goal of making AEDs available in every secondary school athletic setting.

In addition to the club grants, the NFL Foundation will work alongside the American Heart Association and American Red Cross to promote and reinforce a nationwide effort to raise awareness of and prevent fatalities from sudden cardiac arrest, including through hands-only CPR education. This collaboration will ensure that CPR education and AED access remain a priority in schools and communities across the country, even beyond club markets.

“The simple goal of this effort is to save lives. These common-sense policies are simple, proven steps that are critical for student athlete safety,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy. “Schools in every state should have policies in place to deliver CPR effectively, have immediate access to an AED, and know what to do in case of an emergency. Student athletes deserve it.”

Additional comments from The Smart Heart Sports Coalition members:

Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, founder of The Chasing M’s Foundation:

“I’m honored to support the NFL’s work to encourage all 50 states to adopt policies to protect youth. This work pushes forward the idea that every high school should have an athletic emergency plan, coaches should be CPR and AED trained and athletic fields should have clearly marked AEDs within a moment’s reach. These efforts can help save the lives of student athletes impacted by sudden cardiac arrest.”

Nancy Brown, CEO of The American Heart Association:
"We are proud to join the NFL and other major sports leagues to ensure public policies make the resources available for schools to implement tailored emergency response plans that include training in CPR and AEDs. As the worldwide leader in resuscitation science, education, training and advocacy, and publisher of the official Guidelines for CPR, we know that saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest depends on having a strong chain of survival across the emergency response system. This means immediately activating 911 to ensure timely access to EMS, starting quality CPR compressions, having an AED nearby and using it and ultimately ensuring quality hospital care."

Jack McMaster, President of American Red Cross Training Services:

“The American Red Cross is proud to support and promote the NFL’s new, national advocacy campaign to highlight the need for safety policies and training to prevent sudden cardiac arrest among young people. Part of the Red Cross vision is that there will always be trained individuals nearby, ready to use their skills to save lives when an emergency occurs. Getting trained in CPR and AED skills is the first step and this coalition will help all high schools reach that goal.”

Julie Grand, NHL Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel:

“The NHL is proud to be joining the NFL and others dedicated to the health and safety of young people by joining The Smart Heart Sports Coalition. Our league knows first-hand the life-saving benefits of having an action plan in place to prevent fatal outcomes from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). We stand with our fellow coalition members by encouraging all 50 states to adopt evidence-based policies to ensure that young people across the U.S. have that same essential protection in a moment of crisis.”

Dr. Brian Hainline, NCAA Chief Medical Officer:

“Immediate implementation of CPR/AED is life-saving in sudden cardiac arrest – a condition that kills athletes of all ages each year, including adolescents and young adults. The NCAA strongly supports the coalition to address this life-threatening emergency.”

David Weiss, National Basketball Association Senior Vice President, Player Matters:

“The safety and well-being of student athletes is paramount and it is imperative to take the proper safety measures when they compete. We are proud to join our colleagues in professional sports as well as our non-profit partners to advocate for these simple, evidence-based measures that will go a long way in mitigating these tragedies and creating a safer environment for young athletes.”

Dr. Douglas Casa, CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute:

“The mission of KSI is to provide research, education, advocacy, and consultation to maximize performance, optimize safety, and prevent sudden death for the athlete, warfighter, and laborer. We are passionate about moving forward faster the adoption of policies proven to reduce the incidence of catastrophic sports injuries for secondary school athletes. We are extremely proud of our longstanding partnership with the NFL and our shared commitment to make meaningful and life-saving policy enhancements so that sport can be as safe as possible for all of those who love participating.”

National Athletic Trainers’ Association President Kathy Dieringer, EdD, LAT, ATC:

“NATA is proud to partner with the NFL to raise awareness for the need for updated policies on sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs and emergency action plans are vital components to keeping student athletes healthy, safe, and able to enjoy the sports they love. Additionally, it is imperative that student athletes have access to a licensed medical professional onsite, such as an athletic trainer, as part of their comprehensive athlete safety plan. ATs have the education, knowledge and experience to treat sudden cardiac arrest; however, almost one-third of high schools currently do not have an athletic trainer on staff.”

Jon Coyles, Major League Baseball Vice President for Drug, Health & Safety Programs:

“Major League Baseball is honored to partner with the NFL and the other members of this coalition to advocate for the swift adoption of life-saving policies to ensure that medical emergency plans, equipment and training are ensured in high school sports.  We look forward to working with other stakeholders around the country to implement these critical measures in the most efficient way possible.”

Anastasia Danias, Major League Soccer Executive Vice President and General Counsel:

“MLS is proud to join with other leagues across the U.S. to advocate on behalf of student athletes’ health and safety. Athletes at all levels should have health and safety policies in place to protect them, and we will continue to push states to adopt best practices that are proven to save lives.”


Media Contacts

Megan Grant, NFL,

Don Lauritzen, American Red Cross,

John Dellapina, NHL,

Michelle Brutlag Hosick, NCAA,

Brandon Gassaway, NBA,

Rebecca Stearns, Korey Stringer Institute,

LaNell Armour, National Athletic Trainers’ Association,

Michael Teevan, Major League Baseball,

Lauren Hayes, Major League Soccer,

Linzy Cotaya, American Heart Association,