The football world has been at a stand still since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after being hit during the game on Monday Night Football. Teammates and players from around the league expressed their horror and timidness to play after seeing what happened to him on the field.
**UPDATE as of 1/6/23:**
Quarterback Josh Allen spoke for the first time since Hamlin’s emergency and assured reporters that the team was prepared to face the New England Patriots. He and head coach Sean McDermott agreed that this was partly because of the positive updates they received, along with encouragement from Hamlin’s father.
“We just want to love up on him the next chance we get,” Allen said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be, but if we get to see him again anytime soon, it’s going to be awesome.”
This morning, the team says that the 24-year-old was able to speak with his team on FaceTime, saying “love you boys.”
Damar Hamlin FaceTimed into our team meeting today to talk to players and coaches.
What he said to the team: “Love you boys.” ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8dorrWNaxt
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 6, 2023
This is a huge miracle since about 350,000 cases occur each year outside of a hospital, but the survival rate is less than 12 percent!
News from around the country has been paying close attention to him as the 24-year-old was initially listed in critical condition. But per an update from the Bills, it seems like Hamlin is doing much better than expected.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 5, 2023
The report says that Hamlin has shown that he “appears to be neurologically intact,” which means he is responsive, making purposeful movements (i.e. planned movements that he is directing with his brain), and following commands. Some have even reported that he was able to squeeze a hand on command.
Hamlin had his heartbeat restored on the field after nearly 10 minutes of CPR and oxygen via an AED machine, also known as a defibrillator, a medical device that delivers an electrical shock to help the heart return to a normal rhythm.
Commotio cordis — or a chest blow that disrupts your normal heart rhythm — is one possible explanation for why Hamlin experienced sudden cardiac arrest. This type of injury is rare in football.
Since crucial information about Hamlin’s condition has yet to be released publicly, certain widely circulated details of Hamlin’s injuries are really just pure speculation. Therefore, while Hamlin may have received CPR and oxygen assistance for several minutes, we can’t be certain of “the extent of damage to his brain and other organs due to the lack of adequate oxygen.”
What Does Recovery Look Like?
With Hamlin or anyone who may have had cardiac arrest, there are a number of risks if they survive. There is a risk of neurologic dysfunction, brain injury, disorders of consciousness, neurocognitive deficits, changes in quality of life, as well as other physical and psychological issues.
The most common neurological issue after cardiac arrest is known as hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. This type of injury, which is a leading cause of significant disability or death following resuscitation, is named for the factor that triggers it (lack of oxygen or hypoxia) and its impact on the cells, known as ischemia. This is followed by reperfusion injury. This type of brain injury occurs when the heart is restarted, and results from the interaction of oxygen, which is now returned to the brain, with highly reactive metabolites produced in the brain during the period of cardiac arrest.1 The end result is neuronal damage and death.
The longer a person remains with limited or no oxygen or blood flow to the brain, the greater the accumulation of these reactive metabolites, and the greater the potential for reperfusion injury when oxygen returns to the brain. In addition to cell death, chemical changes in the brain during cardiac arrest and reperfusion can trigger cerebral edema, or swelling in the brain, along with a severe constriction of blood vessels (vasospasm) in the brain. Both disrupt the flow of blood and delivery of oxygen to the brain, further compounding the injury.
Other cardiac arrest survivors may experience brain injuries as a result of decreased blood flow and oxygen to the brain, such that specific portions of the brain are impacted. These impacts may be permanent or they may improve over time, and include movement disorders, memory loss or impairment, speech difficulties, weakness or immobility, and cognitive impairments including difficulties with attention, concentration, and visual-motor skills.
Functional Deficits Following Cardiac Arrest Survival
Neurological damage sustained during and after resuscitation like Damar’s can result in