How AEDs Saved the Lives of Famous Athletes: Real Stories of Survival

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are essential in saving lives, including those of high-profile athletes. Here are some remarkable stories that highlight how cardiac emergencies can happen to anyone and the importance of quick action and AEDs:

Bronny James: A Father's Worst Fear Averted

Bronny James, the 18-year-old son of NBA star LeBron James, suddenly collapsed on a basketball court during practice in a sports facility in July 2023. Members of his basketball team and their coaches were watching with horror as this seemed to be a cardiac arrest. In a matter of moments, the emergency crew on the site used their AED to administer CPR and restart Bronny's heart. (LeBron James later posted a thank you on his Instagram profile to the emergency personnel and staff who saved his son.) This can work in any sports facility. (Sources: Mayo Clinic)

Christian Eriksen: A Soccer Star's Second Chance

June 2021: the world watched in horror as a Danish soccer player, Christian Eriksen, collapsed on the field during a Euro 2020 match. He'd suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Players and fans alike stood by helplessly until the medics used an AED to pull him back from death. Eriksen was lucky – he fully recovered and returned to professional soccer the following year. The Eriksen case brought attention to the vital role of AEDs in sports. Beyond orthopedic emergencies, sports medicine clinicians and athletic trainers naturally get a front-row view of cardiac and neurological injuries. Quick medical response can lead to life-saving differences (Sources: Mayo Clinic; St John Ambulance).

Joe Andruzzi: Boston Marathon Runner's Heroic Act

The former NFL player – and hero off the field – Joe Andruzzi sprang into action at the Boston Marathon in April 2012 when a spectator collapsed midrace from a cardiac arrest. Amid cold temperatures and reliable tailwinds for an intense and elite race, Andruzzi, who was at the end of the event, and other onlookers, using an AED, left that day knowing they had helped save the runner's life. That's because, during significant public events, physical exertion and large crowds increase the risk for specific health problems, put more individuals at risk of collapsing, and, in turn, embrace the widespread use of AEDs in public spaces, transforming such events from potential tragedies into heroic stories of survival. Andruzzi on the story: 'The ambulances were getting blocked out, so the Marathon safety crews and spectators jumped in, and I watched them use the AED and defib the [runner] right on the track… Have more AEDs in more locations. Have more CPR training.

Damar Hamlin: An NFL Star's Recovery

In January 2023, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest while playing during an NFL football game. The scene was frantic as medical staff rushed onto the field, provided Hamlin with CPR, and used an AED to help save his life. Fans – and the sports world – have followed his recovery. Since this near tragedy, the NFL football player has embarked upon a CPR tour, bringing attention to the importance of AEDs and the necessity for CPR education. Hamlin has become an advocate for the need for more AEDs and a belief that more people should be learning CPR, bringing life-saving skills to the masses. Several fans of Hamlin say that they have learned CPR after his near-tragic event and are better equipped to provide emergency care, which may be effective in helping to save someone's life (Sources: American Heart Association, WTSP).


These stories illuminate the disquieting reality that a cardiac emergency can strike at any time, but also that prompt access to an AED and having people trained in how to use it is indeed what can save a life. Recounting these stories of survival and heroism gives life to what otherwise might be nothing more than a statistic, and every instance of somebody's heart beating again because of the timely and humane-built aid of an AED is a testament to the power of good. By sharing them here, we inspire awareness about the value of AEDs and encourage more communities to invest in them.