Critical Injury of NFL Player Damar Hamlin: A Cardiologist’s Insight

Milliseconds may have determined the outcome for Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin, who collapsed on the field and required lifesaving measures. The incident has sparked concern among fans and the sports community, as they wait for updates on Hamlin’s condition.

Buffalo Bills Safety Suffers Cardiac Arrest During Game

According to Dr. Scott Jerome, a University of Maryland Medical System cardiologist, a sudden impact on the chest can cause the heart to stop beating and go into ventricular fibrillation.

That’s if the impact occurs within a very small window between heartbeats.

On Monday night, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was involved in a collision with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins that resulted in Hamlin suffering cardiac arrest.

As medical personnel administered CPR and used an automated external defibrillator, a concerned crowd at the stadium and a national “Monday Night Football” audience watched on. According to a statement from the Bills, he was sedated and listed in critical condition. 

Damar Hamlin Suffers Cardiac Arrest During Buffalo Bills Game

Jerome also added the incident involving Hamlin appeared to be a case of commotio cordis, a Latin term meaning “agitation of the heart.”

This condition occurs when a person is struck in the chest at a specific point in their heart’s rhythm cycle, causing a disruption in the heart’s electrical signals and ultimately leading to cardiac arrest. 

Jerome had not witnessed the game firsthand, but analyzed replays of the incident.

Commotio cordis is a Latin term that means “agitation of the heart” and has been documented in cases of players in sports such as baseball and lacrosse being hit in the chest.

Back on April 16, 2021, Peter Laake Loyola Blakefield defenseman experienced this phenomenon when he was struck in the chest by a shot during a game and collapsed. 

This type of injury occurs when the chest is struck at a specific point in the heart’s rhythm cycle, disrupting the electrical signal and leading to cardiac arrest.

At that time, two doctors from the stands and team staff rushed to assist him using an AED before he was rushed to a hospital. After a few days at the hospital and conducting some tests, the player was back on the field.

The rarity of commotio cordis and the efficiency of medical staff on the field make for a hopeful prognosis for Hamlin.

Despite being more vulnerable than older, professional athletes, younger players have a good chance of recovery thanks to the advanced equipment available on the field.

In fact, fewer than 30 cases of commotio cordis are reported each year, according to the National Library of Medicine. It’s important to note that football players, with their larger builds, are better equipped to absorb the impact of a hit.