Damar Hamlin plans to play in the NFL again. That’s what the 25-year-old Buffalo Bills safety said Tuesday, 106 days after suffering a cardiac arrest during a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“This event was life-changing, but it’s not the end of my journey,” Hamlin said at his first press conference since his collapse. “So I’m here to announce that I plan on making a comeback to the NFL.”
It was an extraordinary announcement considering the events of Jan. 2. Hamlin’s heart stopped that night during the game in Cincinnati. Shortly after taking a blow to the chest during a seemingly routine tackle, he collapsed to the turf, where he was quickly surrounded by medical personnel. As Hamlin put it Tuesday, “I died on national TV in front of the whole world.”
He was resuscitated thanks to the immediate, efficient and educated response of those trainers, doctors and other emergency technicians at the game. They used hands-on CPR and an AED (automated external defibrillator) to revive him and transported him by ambulance to a local hospital. In short, they saved his life.
“The diagnosis of what pretty much happened to me was commotio cordis,” Hamlin said. “Basically, it’s a direct blow (to the heart) at a specific point in your heartbeat that causes sudden cardiac arrest, and 5-7 seconds later, you fall out. That’s pretty much what everyone saw Jan. 2 of this year.”
What we heard Tuesday is that Hamlin has plans beyond playing in the NFL again. He said he intends to use his experience to advocate for CPR training and AED access at the youth sports level because “commotio cordis is the leading cause of death in youth athletes across all sports.”
That’s not entirely accurate. Commotio cordis is a rare form of sudden cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association, but overall, sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 killer of student athletes. That’s according to Parent Heart Watch and the EP Save A Life Foundation. Both are mission partners of the CoachSafely Foundation dedicated to protecting our youth from the potentially fatal consequences of sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, the person collapses and he or she doesn’t respond or breathe normally.
CoachSafely’s injury recognition and prevention training course for youth sports coaches and parents includes a module dedicated to preventing sudden cardiac arrest if possible and recognizing and reacting to it when necessary. The module includes instruction on the emergency use of CPR and an AED, critical tools that can save a young athlete’s life if administered quickly and correctly after a sudden cardiac arrest occurs.
No one knows that better than Hamlin. As he said Tuesday, his goal is that “all the awareness around CPR and access to AEDs” since his collapse will continue to help the cause to decrease the number of deaths from sudden cardiac arrest.
“I’m blessed to have a wonderful medical staff and wonderful trainers here who treat me with the care (they do) their children,” Hamlin said. “That tender loving care just gives me confidence, faith, strength, all the wonderful things that keep me going on this wonderful journey I’ve been on so far.”
Other young athletes have not been as fortunate. A little more than a week ago, Baba Agbaje, a 21-year-old Mercer University soccer player, collapsed during a pickup soccer game April 10 in Macon, Ga., and died. The Bibb County coroner said he had gone into cardiac arrest.
CoachSafely CEO Drew Ferguson stressed the importance of coach and parent education about sudden cardiac arrest at the youth level, where certified athletic trainers are rarely present and AEDs are often not available.
“I feel like if you’re going to coach, you have an obligation to have that knowledge, and if you’re a parent, you have an obligation to ask the question,” Ferguson said. ‘Is my son’s or daughter’s coach trained? Do they have the knowledge to recognize a sudden cardiac arrest or a heat stroke or a concussion?’ If the answer is no, the parent should say, ‘Why not?’ “
– Kevin Scarbinsky | CoachSafely Director of Communications