Buffalo Bills defenseman Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after a tackle during Monday’s game, causing the NFL to suspend play against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bills statement says Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after a stroke. CPR was performed on site to restore his heartbeat before he was transferred to the hospital for more testing and treatment.
Hamlin was injured while wrestling with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who did not appear to be violent. Adjusting his mask, Hamlin fell and froze. He lay for 19 minutes while receiving medical attention.
Now experts are giving more information about what could have happened to Hamlin.
“It’s pretty much turning into what we think of as Commotio Cordis,” Dr. Anthony Cardillo told CNN. “This is a traumatic injury to the front of the chest, and it should happen just as the heart is getting ready to beat again.”
According to the University of Connecticut, Commotio Cordis can be caused by low or mild chest exposure. This usually occurs in athletes between the ages of 8 and 18 who play baseball, hockey or lacrosse or any other sport where projectiles can hit the athlete in the middle of the chest.
Martial arts athletes may also be at risk of being punched. UConn states that without immediate CPR and defibrillation, survival is rare.
The condition itself is also extremely rare, Cardillo said.
“It’s almost like being struck by lightning,” Cardillo said. “It’s so rare. There must be an acute injury to the anterior chest just at this exact moment.”
There were several other medical events that either suspended or postponed the competition.
Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed in the 43rd minute of a match against Finland in June 2021, and doctors later revealed how incredibly close he was to death.
In December 2020, Keyontae Johnson played for Florida against Florida State. After the timeout, Johnson returned to the court and fell face down.
While playing for the St. Louis Blues in February 2020, Jay Bowmister went into cardiac arrest on the bench during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
In March 1990, Hank Gaithers collapsed and died while playing the Loyola Marymount Men’s College Basketball Tournament at the West Coast Conference against Portland.
Less than three months earlier, Gathers had collapsed during another game, and subsequent tests showed he had an arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat.
In October 1971, Chuck Hughes of the Detroit Lions suffered a heart attack late in the fourth quarter of an NFL game against the Chicago Bears. He was officially declared dead about 50 minutes after the game.
Bill Masterton died on January 15, 1968, two days after suffering a severe head injury while playing for the Minnesota North Stars against the Oakland Seals. His death was considered the only on-ice incident in NHL history.
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