Bills' Damar Hamlin in Critical Condition After Collapsing on Field
Bills teammates after Hamlin goes down, Photo via Jeff Dean/AP/Shutterstock

By Eli Glenn

Sports Editor

On Tuesday January 2nd at approximately 8:59 pm, safety for the Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin tackled wide receiver Tee Higgins. It seemed like an ordinary tackle, but the moment Hamlin got up he suddenly collapsed. Hamilin had gone into cardiac arrest, his heart stopped beating and blood was not circulating to his brain. The NFL’s Medical personnel rushed onto the field to give him CPR and utilized a defibrillator to help him breathe.

Hamlin’s condition was a medical mystery and extremely rare abnormality; though doctors have not provided an official diagnosis medical experts say commotio cordis was at play when the hit occured. Commotio cordis is when the heart stops pumping blood due to a direct impact to the chest. The assumption was Hamlin was hit during the split second when his heart was relaxing and preparing to take its next beat. The hit disrupted the heart’s rhythm thus resulting in Hamlin going into cardiac arrest. When a heart’s rhythm gets dropped like this it falls into a rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. This is extremely dangerous because the heart is unable to get enough blood to pump, especially to the brain.

 Hamlin was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where his heart beat had returned but his condition was still critical. He was using a ventilator to breathe but within a short time he was beginning to breathe on his own again. Hamlin was in a coma but was showing signs of neurological intactness. Occasionally he fluttered his eyes and gripped the hands of those close to him. Three Days later on January 5th he gained full consciousness, but was still unable to speak, and communicated with pens and paper. The next day his breathing tube was removed, and doctors were astonished at the speed of his recovery. After a week Hamlin was transferred to a hospital in Buffalo then two days later he was released from that hospital.

The support following Damar’s injury was outstanding. Shortly after his injury over 9 million dollars were raised for a charity which is a toy drive for kids in the community he grew up in. The Buffalo Bills wore a “3” patch on their jerseys for Hamlin’s jersey number. Players and Fans wore shirts saying “Love for Damar” on them. Soon after the hashtag “#LoveForDamar” went trending on Twitter with many NFL players tweeting their support and prayers. In the following game, running back for the Buffalo Bills Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. The Bills went on to beat the Patriots 35 – 23.

Though Damar Hamlin is expected to make a steady recovery, his injury yet again raises the question “How safe is it to play in the NFL?” which has already been a frequent conversation this season. Many players voiced their opinions on playing on a turf field versus playing on a grass field. Almost every player agrees that playing on a grass field is way better than turf primarily for injury reasons. Turf has a 69% higher non-contact foot/ankle and 32% non-contact injuries than grass does. The main reason for this is when you plant your feet on turf you stay put while grass has more give and is much more forgiving to falling so the result with turf is a lot more lower body injuries.  

Though what happened to Damar Hamlin was extremely tragic it has shone a light on the risks of playing football in the NFL. And now a much bigger conversation about player safety has blossomed.