Tragedy strikes for Damar Hamlin

Sam Dare, Staff Writer

Tragedy struck the NFL during Monday night’s high-octane matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.

Midway through the first quarter, Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins made inadvertent contact with Bills safety Damar Hamlin while Hamlin was tackling him. Hamlin got up, swayed, then collapsed. The blow sent Hamlin into cardiac arrest. 

Trainers were on the field in seconds, and they began performing CPR. An ambulance was on the field in under five minutes, and medical personnel had to use a defibrillator. The ambulance waited to leave until Hamlin’s mother was onboard. After about a half hour, Hamlin arrived at the hospital with a police escort and was immediately declared to be in critical condition. 

It was later revealed in a tweet from the Buffalo Bills organization that Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field, thanks to the quick actions of the Bills’ training staff. 

As of late Monday, Hamlin’s friend and marketing representative Jordon Rooney announced that Hamlin’s vitals were back to normal and that he had been sedated and intubated. The road to recovery after cardiac arrest is long and slow, so there are no new updates as of yet.

How did this happen? While it is only speculation, medical experts not directly involved believe it is something called commotio cordis, an extremely rare condition where blunt-force trauma to the chest happens during a precise window in the heartbeat’s rhythm. This seems likely as Hamlin was struck in the chest by Higgins’ helmet. 

It is also possible that Hamlin had an underlying heart condition, the main cause of heart attacks and cardiac arrest in athletes, according to The Sports Institute, a US nonprofit organization dedicated to studying sports injuries. Some users on social media have also speculated that he collapsed due to heart implications from the COVID-19 vaccine, but no credible evidence has been provided to support that theory.

The reaction from the world has been immense. Other NFL players, celebrities, sports commentators, journalists, politicians, and countless fans, domestic and abroad, have tweeted their well-wishes and prayers. Hamlin’s foundation, The Chasing M’s Foundation, received over $3.5 million in donations in only a few hours, well above the $2,500 goal set in 2020. This is in large part due to the generosity of the Bills’ fanbase, known as the Bills Mafia. They are known for donating large sums of money to organizations after injuries in football. 

This reflects Hamlin’s charitable spirit. Only two weeks ago, he spoke to reporters at a toy drive event in Buffalo where he signed autographs for children, saying, “I’ve always been into just giving back, something I’ve been doing back home in Pittsburgh for three years, I’ve been doing the toy drive, so just being able to extend it to Buffalo now is just something I love doing.” 

The NFL originally suspended the game, then postponed it after it was evident players on both teams were too shaken to continue play. The NFL has not announced when the game will be resumed.

The game had important playoff implications because both teams vie for the one seed in the AFC playoffs, and the Bengals would clinch the AFC North with a win, though players have expressed this comes secondary to Hamlin’s wellbeing. 

As the nation watches on, Hamlin’s recovery is of utmost importance. Updates will hopefully be released in the coming days, something all involved are anxiously awaiting.