BOZEMAN — Suffering broken bones or torn ACLs is unfortunately a part of playing any sport, and it’s a risk that athletes knowingly take to play the game that they love.
However, after the cardiac emergency that unfolded during Monday Night Football leaving Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin fighting for his life, it’s prompted nationwide discussion — even at Montana State.
“At the end of the day, it makes you realize it is a game," Bobcat athletic director Leon Costello reflected. "We do it because we love it, but watching that, I think it put things in real perspective.”
While life-threatening sports injuries are rare, being prepared for them has always been a part of the game plan at Montana State.
For instance, it’s not required by the NCAA for coaches to be CPR certified, but it is a stipulation within the Bobcat athletic department.
“Taking a look at this, I’m glad we have the things in place that we do in case something like this would now happen," Costello explained. "A lot of that goes to our relationship and partnership with Bozeman Health. That relationship has made sure that we have the proper personnel on our sidelines.”
Even though the university began its partnership with Bozeman Health three years ago, it wasn’t until the fall of 2021 that a health clinic opened inside the newly constructed Bobcat Athletic Complex.
While the clinic isn’t necessarily for treating life-threatening injuries, Montana State is in a class of its own when it comes to the safety of its student-athletes being one of the only programs in the Big Sky to offer primary care services directly on campus.
“At our clinic, we can check lab work," Dr. Karl Reisig, Bozeman Health’s clinical lead physician for MSU Athletic Care and head team physician for MSU, stated. "We can give IV fluids both on the sidelines and in clinic. We have the ability to use an AED to stabilize them while we’re doing CPR. [We have] oxygen, and then as far with injuries — both on the sideline and in the clinic — the ability to stabilize fractures.”
As an extra precaution, there is always a team physician from Bozeman Health that travels with Montana State’s football team, but in the case of an emergency at any sporting event, Dr. Reisig shared there is a medical response plan in place that is practiced annually between staff.
“If there’s a medical emergency on the court or the field, athletic training staff and medical staff will respond immediately, evaluate the athlete," Dr. Reisig explained. "If it’s an emergency, then we will activate EMS… We’ll do what’s medically necessary to get the athlete stable and ready to transport to the emergency room, and then we and EMS can call the emergency room to inform them so they’re ready to activate the trauma response or whatever response is needed so they’re ready to go when the patient is transported to the ER.”
“I think [Monday] night put into perspective having something so close in a timely fashion where time is of the essence, having that clinic just steps off of the field I think is a huge advantage for us," Costello added. "We’re fortunate that we have some of the things that we have in place right here at MSU.”
Bobcats head football coach Brent Vigen was in Cincinnati Monday night for the game to watch one of his former quarterbacks from the University of Wyoming, Josh Allen.
Montana State says its thoughts and prayers are with Hamlin, his family, and the entire Buffalo Bills community as people continue to pull for No. 3.