Medical emergency interrupts Bills v. Bengals

Bills safety Damar Hamlin rushed to hospital after cardiac arrest.


A lot has happened in the NFL in recent weeks. From close games and upsets to intense playoff races, it’s safe to say that the NFL lived up to expectations over the holiday break. But for the first time in a long time, that excitement has been put on hold.

Last week’s Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals was one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season. Both teams have already clinched division titles and are serious Super Bowl contenders. The Bengals started fast with an opening drive touchdown, and the Bills answered with a field goal. The Bengals had moved the ball into Buffalo territory on the ensuing drive, but then suddenly, that didn’t matter. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed a pass for a first down to wide receiver Tee Higgins and was tackled by Bills safety Damar Hamlin. Nothing appeared to be amiss when the play ended. However, after getting up and taking a few steps, Hamlin suddenly collapsed onto his back, unconscious. It was later learned that he had experienced cardiac arrest. Medical personnel rushed onto the field to treat Hamlin. He was given CPR on the field, then loaded into an ambulance and transferred to the University of Cincinnati’s medical center. As of this writing, no plans have been announced by the NFL to complete the game and no decision has been made as to how it will impact the postseason.

Although no official diagnosis has been made as to why Hamlin suffered the cardiac arrest, many experts hypothesize that he suffered what is called commotio cordis, a rare form of cardiac arrest. Commotio cordis, Latin for “agitation of the heart,” occurs when a large enough force is applied to a specific part of the heart at a very specific time in the heart’s rhythmic cycle. In short, it causes irregularity in the heartbeat and can cause a deadly electrical charge in the heart. An average of only 15 to 20 people die from this condition every year and it is most common in teens, so Hamlin’s case is especially uncommon.

According to the Buffalo Bills organization, Hamlin showed considerable improvement on Tuesday and Wednesday before waking up Wednesday night for the first time since falling unconscious Monday night. As of Friday morning, doctors treating Hamlin were able to remove his breathing support, and he was able to talk to his family and his doctors for the first time since his collapse. Although he still has a long road ahead of him, doctors are hopeful that he will make a full recovery.

Hamlin, 24, has received an outpouring of support from people all around the world. Over $7 million has been donated to his annual toy drive for kids, which started with a goal of $2,500. Hamlin’s situation is a reminder to all of us sports fans that the game doesn’t always matter the most. Although they are a source of great enjoyment for many people and are lucrative jobs for the athletes, we must remember that sports, when it comes down to it, are just games, and sometimes risky ones. When we inevitably watch football again this weekend, let’s remember Damar Hamlin in an effort to keep the people that play the game in mind. Not the players, the people. Yes, they play a game for the world’s entertainment for a living and most of them love doing it, but we can’t forget that these athletes are also people with personal lives off the field.