This Hero Went from the Playing Field to the Medical Field

Canadian football star Laurent Duvernay-Tardif replaced his sports gear with medical gear and is helping to take care of coronavirus patients near his hometown.

May 14, 2020

(Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com)

In February 2020, just three months ago, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif made history when he helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Last month, he made history again as the NFL’s first and only player to scrub in and support coronavirus efforts on the frontline. 

The 29-year-old chief’s right guard is also a medical doctor having received his doctorate in medicine from McGill University six years ago according to CNN. But since Duvernay-Tardif was drafted into the NFL before he could complete his residency, he fell into a self-described “gray area” regarding his ability to support medical staff.

“They didn't know what to do with me, because I don't have a license to practice – yet,” Duvernay-Tardif said in an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated. Now since April 24 he has been working at a medical facility near his hometown, about an hour outside of Montreal, in what he describes as a nursing role.

“That is really where they need people in Quebec and in Canada in general” he said. “We got hit hard in those places. They need help to replace the health care workers who have been sick and to help with the increasing demand

Duvernay-Tardif said he first heard about the coronavirus three days before the Super Bowl but at the time his focus was on football and winning the game.

Afterwards, he received an alert on his phone stating that all travelers would have to isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada life was pretty chaotic with him participating in a victory parade in Kansas City that was thrown for the hometown heroes where a million people were crowded together on the streets cheering. And after his return to Canada when a second parade in Montreal was thrown to support their local hero.

 Then in March, when he was on a postseason vacation with his girlfriend, he received an alert on his phone stating that all travelers would have to isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada. It was only then that he fully understood that life had changed dramatically over the course of the month. He cut his vacation short and returned home.

“The difference between the moment I left and the moment I came back was so intense. I had only wanted to get away, and then I wished I had never left. Everything had stopped,” Duvernay-Tardif said.

After isolating, he reached out to the health ministry and public health authorities to see what he could do to help quell the crisis. While figuring out where he fit in the medical system, Duvernay-Tardif was briefed frequently by officials, and used his presence on social media to promote social distancing and relay other important medical information to his followers.

Eventually, Canada, like many other countries, began recruiting students and retired medical professionals to assist the coronavirus efforts, which allowed Duvernay-Tardif an opportunity to assist on-site.

With the dangers considered, and approval from both his loved ones and the Kansas City Chiefs, he decided to take a position at a local health facility. He took a crash course to go over details regarding sanitizing and putting on equipment,  “because that stuff is more important than ever, to protect not only yourself but your patients.”

These days Duvernay-Tardif is serving on the Player Association Task Force alongside a myriad of experts who are working together to determine the safest ways for players to get back to the game. He continues to use his medical knowledge and social media presence to keep people informed and involved. 

“It’s too soon to say when sports might come back. Or what that might look like. What I can say is if we’re not playing in September, knowing all the implications of what sport means for a nation and the money behind this huge industry, there are going to be bigger issues than not playing football.”

The NFL and numerous players have also supported Coronavirus efforts in various ways. According to an NFL news release, over 50 players, coaches, and owners joined the #StayHomeStayStrong twitter campaign encouraging people to isolate. The NFL Foundation has also donated $3.4 million to 10 national organizations including Meals on Wheels America, Boys and Girls Club of America, and the CDC foundation.

People who volunteer on the coronavirus frontlines show that hard times are also golden opportunities for people to give back to their communities. That’s why Duvernay-Tardif is a real-life hero for the life-saving work he is doing off the playing field for people in need.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.