By Karen Stokes
NFL Buffalo Bills second-year safety, Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest at 8:55 p.m. during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals after making a tackle on Tee Higgins.
Medical staff performed CPR for nine minutes on the field before Hamlin was taken to a local hospital.
Hamlin’s collapse was witnessed in front of a North American television audience on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”. The game was suspended.
Players and fans from across the NFL quickly rallied to Hamlin’s support, with vigils held in Cincinnati and in Buffalo.
There is a difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack.
“A cardiac arrest is an event where the heart actually stops, preventing blood from being circulated to the rest of the body. It’s consistent with death. A heart attack is different in that an event where a blood vessel of the heart is plugged, typically by plaque and causes an area of the heart to be deprived of necessary blood flow, although a heart attack can cause the heart to stop that is certainly not inevitable,” said Dr. Michael Curley, Cardiologist Specialist, Ascension.
While Hamlin’s team and family have not yet confirmed the cause of his collapse, many medical professionals that are following his case online have narrowed it down to a likely cause which is commotio cordis.
“I don’t have any specific information, I did review some of the film taken from that game. What appeared to happen to Mr. Hamlin is he had a direct hit to the middle of his chest and there’s this rare possibility called commotio cordis,” said Dr Curley.
“It’s when an individual is struck in a very specific part of the chest right overlying the heart with great force at a very specific time point in the cardiac cycle during the relaxation phase of the heart. It can actually trigger the heart to go into a very disorganized life threatening irregular rhythm. The heart is vulnerable to blunt forces like the one he received. I definitely can’t say for sure that’s what happened but the mechanism of injury would be consistent with commotio cordis.”
If you believe someone is experiencing a heart attack, minutes matter. Fast action can save lives, maybe your own.
“The most important first thing to do if someone is unresponsive or clearly in distress is call 911,” said Dr. Curley. “Prompt responses are really the most important thing. Secondly it is life saving to find someone who knows CPR. CPR doesn’t necessarily restore the beat but it does keep blood moving to the brain until the time the patient can be resuscitated with an automated external defibrillator (AED). CPR is important.”
The American Heart Association (AHA) has resources for CPR training and information on maintaining a healthy heart. Go to www.heart.org.
As of Thursday morning, “Per the physicians caring for Damar Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Damar has shown remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the statement from the Buffalo Bills reads. “While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress.”
Upon waking up after being sedated, Hamlin followed commands and even was able to communicate in writing. Hamlin remains in critical condition with a breathing tube, according to his doctors, who made their first public comments Thursday about his condition in a news conference held at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.