NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Like the rest of the world, Dr. Alex Diamond's stomach dropped when Buffalo Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field.
"When you see it in real-time, it’s always traumatic and hits ya for sure," said Diamond, who is the Director of Vanderbilt's Youth Health Center.
He was then comforted to see that the NFL immediately sprung into action. That's because that's exactly what he preaches to youth sports leagues.
"Have an emergency action plan. And what that is is writing down and thinking about every particular injury, illness, emergency that can occur and how you would respond to that," said Dr. Diamond.
In 2018, he launched a program called Safe Star in partnership with the state. The program certifies sports leagues and school athletic programs based on how prepared they are for any emergency, including cardiac arrest.
"The bronze level is the minimum that we think anyone should have, and really focuses on the things that are life and death issues," he said.
Focusing on life and death issues includes making sure there are CPR-certified personnel on the sidelines and an AED readily available for practices and games. Silver and Gold ratings take it several steps further.
"Schools, as well as youth groups, have had successful outcomes for possible tragedies for kids because they’ve been Safe Star programs at that gold level, which have made a clear difference," said Dr. Diamond.
Just six months ago, it became Tennessee law that all public schools must be at least Bronze certified. Now, Dr. Diamond is hoping youth sports leagues will follow suit.
"As a parent, I can look and say, 'what program do I want my child participating in?'" he said.
If your child's league isn't on their list, Dr. Diamond hopes you'll speak up. Because when the unthinkable happens, he hopes your child's league has not only thought about it — but it's also ready to act.
"Don’t be afraid to push it; it’s important. No one is going to care more about your kids than you are," said Diamond. "We need to do better for our kids, and that’s on everyone. We can’t delegate responsibility."
You can learn more about the program and see the list of participating programs by clicking here.