Doctors Say Damar Hamlin Can Play Football Again

The Buffalo Bills safety told the media that he "died on national TV," but nevertheless foresees a return to football

Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.
We may soon seen Damar Hamlin back on an NFL field
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig / Getty Images

After Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on an NFL field in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in January, the football universe expressed overwhelming shock, grief and support. If this story didn’t already have a happy enough ending with news that Hamlin not only survived the event, but would emerge healthy again, we learned yesterday that doctors have declared him healthy enough to resume football activities.

“Not to sound cliché but the ‘wow moment’ is every day,” Hamlin said in a meeting with the media. “Just being able to wake up and just take deep breaths and live a peaceful life, to have a family to have people around me that love me that care about me and for those people to have me in their lives.”

Those people — his family, friends and teammates, but also the medical personnel he’s thanked for saving his life, as well as the millions of football fans who wished for his recovery — almost “lost” him, he said.

“I died on national TV, in front of the whole world,” Hamlin continued. “That right there is just the biggest blessing. For me to still have my people and for my people to still have me.”

As NFL Celebrates Damar Hamlin’s “Remarkable Improvement,” He Still Has No Pension
The Buffalo Bills safety appears to be neurologically intact and his lungs are healing

Until yesterday the precise cause of the health emergency had not been revealed. But Hamlin said during the press conference that he suffered Commotio cordis, which prompted a helpful blog post from the American Heart Association.

“Commotio cordis (pronounced ke-MO-she-o-KORD-is) comes from the Latin for ‘agitation of the heart,’” the post said. “Put simply, it’s a rare cardiac arrest immediately following a blow to the chest. The impact induces a potentially lethal heart rhythm disturbance, or arrhythmia, called ventricular fibrillation.”

It’s difficult to determine exactly how rare such an event is, the AHA wrote, but a doctor whom the organization interviewed described it as a “very, very rare” occurrence. According to a scientific review published a month ago, there are only 334 known cases since 1980.

“Commotio cordis has been caused by snowballs, sibling scuffles and falling off bikes,” said the AHA post. “Children have died after being struck by toy bats, T-balls or plastic sleds.”

Hamlin said yesterday that he will spread awareness about Commotio cordis, certainly a life-saving measure in and of itself.

“Commotio cordis is the leading cause of death in youth athletes across all sports,” he said. “So, that’s something that I personally will be taking a step in to make a change. Also, with that being said, all of the awareness around CPR and access to AEDs have been lowering that number as well.”

The AHA said it’s virtually impossible to protect against Commotio cordis, in part because it’s such a “bizarre occurrence.” But “prompt treatment,” administered by trained individuals who’ve learned how to identify the event quickly, will help lead to the type of positive outcome we’re seeing with Hamlin.

According to The Athletic, Hamlin said he met with a doctor last Friday who “recommended going back to playing” so as to help him emotionally recover from the incident. The publication said while Hamlin’s back with his team, the Buffalo Bills are putting a “significant emphasis” on Hamlin’s mental health. From a physical standpoint, the Bills “are likely going to take it extremely slow with Hamlin, even in something as light as voluntary workouts,” The Athletic also wrote.

“He’s fully cleared,” said Bills general manager Brandon Beane during the press conference. “He’s in a great headspace to come back and make his return.”

Incredible. What else is there to say?

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