Nashville/ Science, Tech & Medicine
AI Assisted Icon
Published on May 22, 2024
NFL Commissioner Goodell and Tennessee Governor Lee Champion New Smart Heart Act to Equip Schools with Lifesaving AEDsSource: Cpl. Alexis Moradian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

NFL big shot Roger Goodell joined forces with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to usher in a game-changing law in the fight to keep high school athletes safe. The duo celebrated the Smart Heart Act, a new law mandating that all Tennessee high schools equip themselves with automated external defibrillators (AEDs), as reported by AP News. According to the legislation signed earlier this year, AEDs are now required to be on hand for the entire school day and for all athletic events.

With this move, Tennessee has trailed behind other states in requiring life-saving tech in schools. The new law emerged from a broader heart health initiative kickstarted by the NFL and other sports leagues, responding to incidents like Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin's sudden cardiac arrest during a 2023 game, Goodell noted in a statement obtained by WSMV. It mandates not just the presence of AEDs but also that school staff are trained in CPR and the use of these defibrillators.

The Smart Heart Act’s requirements don't stop at equipment. It also stipulates that high schools have an established emergency action plan for cardiac incidents, ensuring preparedness is more than just a box to tick. Training teachers in classrooms and sports fields is the cornerstone of this legislation, aiming to create a safety net that spans from locker rooms to the library.

Local hero Linton Beck, a recent graduate who survived a cardiac arrest at Station Camp High School, stood beside Gov. Lee during the signing ceremony as a living testament to the importance of AEDs and prompt action. "I realized that a lot of schools across Tennessee do not have that type of blessing," Beck told the assembly, highlighting the disparity in emergency readiness as WSMV covered his remarks. His testimony underlines the potential lifeline these devices represent for students and athletes.

Highlighting cases that brought heart safety to the national sports conversation, the Smart Heart Act seeks to safeguard student-athletes against unforeseen tragedies. Besides Hamlin's case, Bronny James, son of basketball icon LeBron James, suffered a cardiac arrest last July, which was instrumental in once again pushing the conversation about student-athlete heart health into the limelight, said The Daily Memphian.

Unanimously passed by Tennessee lawmakers, this bipartisan effort reflects an understanding that athletic pursuits, though worthwhile, carry inherent risks. The Smart Heart Act represents a consequential step forward, acknowledging the potential cost of competitive sports and addressing the need to better protect our young athletes' hearts and souls.