MIAMI (WSVN) – Even before the hard hit that caused a medical emergency for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, talk of encouraging young athletes to participate in less combative sports has been on the rise among many families to keep their children safe.
“When I saw him aggressively using his radio and pointing, I knew at that point there was something wrong,” said Tony Sands, a trainer with a youth football team, the Miami Elite Lions. “Now I have to see what the mindset of my new athletes is.”
From those who coach to parents and grandparents, Demar Hamlin’s chilling prime-time injury during Monday night football was a time for many to take stock of the game of football and its potential dangers.
“I got scared because I believe we all like it but it’s a dangerous sport,” said one grandmother. “I wouldn’t want my grandkids to continue to do that, honestly.”
Uchenna Ezewike, 22, started playing football here at Miramar Regional Park 12 years ago and he is keeping up with his training on his long break from the University of Massachusetts where he is on a full scholarship because of his skills in football.
“I wasn’t watching it live but once it happened, I saw it all on Twitter and Instagram,” he said. “It’s very scary but we love this game and we wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
J.J. Hosking’s mother will no longer let him play and his father, Jovanny, said the fear of injury is the reason.
“I played football when I was young, but I’d rather he stick to baseball,” said Jovanny.
Erika Savage, who grew up playing basketball and volleyball, said every sport has risk and that coaching is key.
“My whole family is a football family,” she said. “You just gotta make sure you check up on your players and care about them as a person. Not just as a player making money.”
“We have to get our guys prepared for the impacts that this game has,” said Sands.
One thing they all agree on is a desire to see Hamlin recover.
Virgil Lemons and Amariyon Benefield play for the Miami Elite Lions and they are aware of the precautions that come with the sport.
“[I know] I can get hurt badly but when I’m out on the field, I just have to throw it out of my mind,” said Lemons.
“There is some second-guessing but some people have so much love for the game and they’re not going to stop playing it,” said Benefield. “What happened to Hamlin was unfortunate but you never know when it can be your last day playing the sport you love.”
In the meantime, a new generation of football players continues to train for their turn.
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