Following Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin's progress—Here's the latest

By MDLinx staff | Fact-checked by MDLinx staff
Published January 3, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during a game on Monday, January 2, 2023. His heartbeat was restored after he received CPR and oxygen. He was taken to a nearby medical center and was in critical condition.

  • On Thursday, January 5, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center reported that he was starting to awaken and has shown improvement.

  • Cardiologists have speculated that commotio cordis—in which the heart is stopped after a blow to the chest—may have caused Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.

UPDATE: On Thursday, January 5, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center reported that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was starting to awaken and had shown “substantial improvement” in his recovery from his January 2 mid-game cardiac arrest. Surgeon Timothy Pritts, MD, PhD, said he’s still considered critically ill, but his neurological condition seems intact. Reportedly, Hamlin could move his hands and feet, and couldn't speak but could communicate by writing.

Damar Hamlin, the 24-year-old safety for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills football team, remained in critical condition on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 3, 2023, after collapsing mid-game in Cincinatti, OH, on Monday night.

Hamlin reportedly suffered cardiac arrest on the field during the game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s been speculated by cardiologists that commotio cordis may have caused Hamlin’s condition.

Cardiac arrest followed a ‘hit’

According to a Bills statement posted on the team’s Twitter account, the cardiac arrest occurred “following a hit in our game versus the Bengals.”

“Hamlin was involved in a violent collision with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins on a first-quarter play moments before he collapsed,” Hamlin’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, wrote on Twitter Monday night.

"Hamlin tackled Higgins after a catch. Hamlin got to his feet briefly, then fell to the turf."

Jordon Rooney, on Twitter

The Washington Post reported that CPR was administered to Hamlin by the Bills’ medical staff, and he received oxygen. After his heartbeat was restored while he was still on the field, he was stabilized and transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, a Level One trauma center, where he remains in the ICU.

“His vitals are back to normal and they have put him to sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat,” Rooney wrote on Twitter. “They are currently running tests. We will provide updates as we have them.”

Did commotio cordis occur?

On Twitter, cardiologist Chris Haddock, MD, wrote, “I believe Damar Hamlin was likely suffering from commotio cordis where a blow to the chest at a precise moment in the electrical cycle stops the heart.”

It appears that Haddock wrote this to counter some theories that had been spreading on social media about what caused the incident.

"Those trying to tie this to vaccine status to project their unscientific beliefs are terrible, horrible people."

Chris Haddock, MD, on Twitter

Another cardiologist, Khalid Aljabri, MD, offered a similar hypothesis on Twitter, writing, “Damar Hamlin stood up for a few seconds then lost his consciousness. Is commotio cordis still the likely diagnosis? The answer is yes. Loss of consciousness starts about 8 seconds after the last [heartbeat] and circulatory standstill occurs after 10–15 seconds.”

Game postponed

Following Hamlin’s on-field collapse, the football game was stopped and ultimately postponed.

According to a memo from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell published by CNN, “After speaking with both teams and NFLPA leadership, I decided to postpone last night’s game and have our focus remain on Damar and his family.”

As this article went to press, no decision had been made regarding if the game will be resumed at a later date.

What this means for you

Damar Hamlin’s mid-game cardiac arrest, and the possibility that it was caused by commotio cordis, may open up an opportunity to discuss cardiovascular health with your patients, while addressing the false theories and speculation that may arise from high-profile health stories such as this one.

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