- Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin suffered from a cardiac arrest during a game on Monday night after a tackle.
- Hamlin was revived by CPR and a defibrillator while on the field.
- He is now breathing on his own and talking, according to officials.
- Cardiac arrest can result from blunt force trauma, such as from a tackle.
Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin is breathing on his own and talking, according to a statement from the team posted on Twitter.
Hamlin, 24, suffered from a cardiac arrest during a game on Monday night. He was immediately given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and was hooked up to a defibrillator.
He was resuscitated on the field, and was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he was resuscitated for a second time before being put on a ventilator.
Hamlin was taken off the ventilator overnight after spending days being sedated in the ICU. Team officials said Hamlin had been able to talk with family and physicians. He even addressed his teammates over Facetime.
In a press conference this week, physicians treating Hamlin said had significantly improved in the last 24 hours.
The team reported he was awake and was able to write out a question, asking who won the game. Dr. Timothy Pritts, a trauma surgeon and Division Chief of General Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said “The answer is yes, you know Damar you won the game of life.”
According to Dr. Shephal Doshi, a cardiac electrophysiologist and director of cardiac electrophysiology and pacing at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, when a patient is “neurologically intact” they are aware of person, place, time and situation.
“We just want them to be moving all extremities then following simple commands. These are some of the earlier things that come back first,” Doshi said.
Dr. Suyog Mokashi, Director of the Aortic Surgery Program at Temple University Hospital and Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, said trauma to the chest such as from a tackle might have contributed to cardiac arrest.
“Blunt chest trauma, as may be seen from the tackle, is associated with rapid deceleration, trauma, or compression injury to the heart. This results in a spectrum ranging from asymptomatic heartbeats to sudden death,” Mokashi told Healthline.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating suddenly, says Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a board-certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
The most common cause is an electrical malfunction of the heart due to a rapid and irregular heartbeat.
“As a result of this, the heart cannot pump effectively, and there is a lack of blood flow and oxygen to vital organs, including the brain,” Tadwalkar said.
In Hamlin’s case, the football player had recently made a tackle, which could have caused blunt cardiac trauma.
According to Tadwalkar, Hamlin likely experienced a rare complication called commotio cordis — ventricular fibrillation, a type of cardiac arhythmia, caused by the injury to the chest when he made a tackle.
“The force of the impact electrically converts the heart into the dangerous heart rhythm,” Tadwalkar said.
About 75% of the deaths occurred in people playing baseball, ice hockey, and softball, most of which took place after being struck in the chest by the ball or puck, Mokashi said.
A traumatic chest injury can also cause cardiac contusion, tears or ruptures of the aorta, or a penetration to the heart.
There are other causes of cardiac arrest include existing structural issues, like congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, and electrical system problems, Tadwalkar added.
It’s crucial to immediately contact emergency services so the person can receive prompt medical care.
They should receive chest compressions, or CPR, as soon as possible, to keep the blood flowing to the body.
Given within the first few minutes, CPR, which may also include rescue breaths, can be life-saving.
“This consists of using two hands centered on the chest, elbows locked, with the shoulders directly over the hands,” Tadwalkar said.
According to Mokashi, 30 compressions and two breaths should be given until an automated external defibrillator (AED), a type of machine that delivers electrical shocks to the heart, can be accessed.
The AED will provide vocal instructions to guide people through the defibrillation process.
If the patient remains unresponsive, CPR should be resumed, says Tadwalkar.
If CPR successfully resuscitates a patient, they are typically intubated and put on a ventilator that will provide mechanical breathing.
They are then treated with medications that help the body continue to function.
Cardiac arrest can contribute to other health conditions that need to be identified and treated — these include brain injury, multi-organ dysfunction, blood loss, clotting disorders, electrolyte issues, trauma, and infections, according to Tadwalkar.
“Due to complex nature of this problem, recovery is often prolonged, lasting days to weeks, and sometimes longer,” Tadwalkar said.
In some cases, organ dysfunction — such as anoxic brain injury in which the brain did not receive enough oxygen — can be permanent.
Some patients can recover without any long-lasting damage.
“In this case, the hope is that Hamlin’s young age makes him more predisposed to a swift and successful recovery,” Tadwalkar said.
Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin, age 24, suffered from a cardiac arrest during a game on Monday night. Cardiac arrest is rare in a young, healthy people, however, Hamlin likely experienced a rare complication called commotio cordis in which a blow to the chest throws off the heart’s rhythm.
Hamlin has been able to breathe on his own after being taken off a ventilator and is talking to family and physicians.