NAU athletic trainers showcased in light of Damar Hamlin’s injury

Northern Arizona University says it has one of the biggest athletic training programs in the country.
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.(NAU)
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:36 AM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) - The Super Bowl is in phoenix in just 23 days! It takes years of planning to pull off the big game.

After those scary moments when Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field, the spotlight is now on the important role athletic trainers play. Their quick work, in part, helped save Hamlin’s life.

Northern Arizona University says it has one of the largest athletic training programs in the country. Athletic trainers are the men and women you see run onto the field when a player gets hurt. Essentially they’re the players’ first line of defense when it comes to their health. It’s who they turn to for everything from rehabilitation from an injury to a cold.

Corey Oshikoya is one of the instructors at NAU. He spent 16 years working in the NFL. He moved to the collegiate level in men’s basketball. Oshikoya has been to the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and the Sweet Sixteen. While athletic trainers are always prepared for it Oshikoya says Hamlin’s injury is rare to see in football. “It’s usually an injury that occurs in other sports with small balls like baseball, lacrosse,” he said. “When those balls hit the chest that’s when you have that similar type of injury.”

When you see a player go down, the trainers immediately take to the field, assess the damage, survey the scene and make sure the person is breathing. Oshikoya says injuries in football are typically orthopedic in nature, like a hurt knee or sprained ankle. Working in the NFL gave Oshikoya the chance to learn from some of the greats, and he says the league has resources others don’t.

“You have the best seat in the house to be on the sideline at a stadium that has 70,000 people,” Oshikoya said. “But it’s really the relationships that you have with the athletes and coaches. You get to know the athletes really, really well. On a personal basis and I think that’s one of the highlights of being an athletic trainer.”

Oshikoya is now sharing his wisdom with students at NAU. There are 40 students in the athletic training program on the Flagstaff and Phoenix campuses. It’s a two-master’s program. Oshikoya says one of the biggest lessons is preparation is key. “Always keeping your skills sharp and always practicing on a yearly, if not more, basis to make sure you’re perfectly prepared for those incidents,” Oshikoya said. “In addition, I think knowing where you are at any facility whether you’re the host or visitor. Knowing where EMS is or if EMS is not there how you plan on getting them there to that facility.

The Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Buffalo Bills this Sunday. It will be there the first time the teams have played each other since Hamlin was injured earlier this month. You can watch the game at 1 p.m. in Arizona on CBS 5.