nfl

Damar Hamlin: What happened, the NFL’s response, and how you can help


Author: Kate MagdziukPublished: 01/03/23

Updated January 5, 2023, 3:14 p.m. ET: Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical center, but there have been a lot of positive updates to share since this article was published.

In short, though he remains with a breathing tube in place and remains critically ill, he is making progress. One of the most promising signs we've seen yet is that he appears to be neurologically intact, responsive, and is communicating with the healthcare team in writing.

One of the first things Damar asked was, "Who won the game?" Now if that's not as #BillsMafia as it gets, I don't know what is.

The Buffalo Bills Twitter account shared a video update courtesy of UC Medical Center, which you can watch here:


NFL fans are dealing with the sullen reminder that the game of football is so much bigger than football. In the first quarter of Monday Night Football, Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a tackle and subsequently collapsed.

In the moments that followed, it became clear immediately that this was not your average tackle. Medical personnel took the field promptly and began work, as the TV broadcast cut to a commercial. Then, they cut to another commercial, and then another, and another. It was an ominous sign of the news that was to follow.

What happened to Damar Hamlin?

The Buffalo Bills issued a statement confirming that Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field.

The latest update from the Buffalo Bills came Tuesday at 1:23 p.m. ET, noting that Hamlin remains in the care of the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The key to life-saving measures in this instance are two-fold: restore the heart back to its normal rhythm, and maintain oxygenation to the body's organs. Hamlin received prompt medical attention, at which point personnel initiated CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), used to help shock the heart back into rhythm. Hamlin was subsequently transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center — a local Level 1 trauma center — for continued treatment.

Did the NFL really want the two teams to resume play after five minutes?

The Bills and Bengals rosters eventually returned to their respective locker rooms prior to the NFL announcing that the game would not resume play.

Prior to that, as the ambulance left the field to transport Hamlin to a local hospital in Cincinnati, commentator Joe Buck noted that the teams would "have five minutes to warm up" prior to resuming. Camera crews on the field showed Bengals QB Joe Burrow throwing the football as if he, too, thought the game was set to be played.

Following the official postponement of the game, the NFL briefed the media on a call regarding the evening’s tragic events. On that call, Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, denied the league’s intention of resuming play after a five-minute warmup, per Pro Football Talk. “That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. And that’s not a place that we should ever be in,” Vincent said.

ESPN is standing by Joe Buck's statement, however, saying they reported what they were told by the league in the moment.

Despite the statement, however, there are no real answers about where the "five-minute" communication came from.

Rule 17, Section 1, Article 4 of the 2022 NFL rulebook notes that "In all cases of significant delay, the League authorities will consult with the management of the participating clubs and will attempt to obtain appropriate information from outside sources, if applicable (e.g., weather bureau, police)." There is no specific mention of a five-minute warmup period.

As a reminder, though, this situation was unprecedented in the modern-day NFL. There were no rules in place that applied here. In 1971, Lions WR Chuck Hughes passed away after suffering a fatal heart attack during a game. And back then, shockingly (or perhaps, unshockingly) they did resume the game.

There's bound to be further investigation here regarding the statements, but to have ever expected these young men to take the field again after what they'd just witnessed would have been immensely cruel. Players are humans first. They are not robots for our entertainment. They are sons, brothers and friends who need the support of not just one another, but also their coaches, the league, the fans and mental health professionals that can help them to process the traumatic event they'd just witnessed.

How did the reporters handle the situation?

In short, ESPN's commentary team did an incredible job.

There's been plenty of commentary about what the crews should have done. Should they have shown so many commercials in the middle of a medical emergency? Isn't it crass to think that the NFL is literally financially profiting as medical personnel attempt to save a young man's life? Well, sure it is. I'm just not sure what else they should have done.

Should they have shown the field? No. CPR is ugly. It is traumatic. It is traumatic in any setting, even in the emergency room or intensive care units, where it is a necessary reality all too often. To see it performed on a football field, in front of teammates, friends, family, brothers, officials, and fans? That is traumatic on a whole different level. The production crew did right by not maintaining constant footage of the field. It gave the medical teams space to work. It gave the players space to comfort one another and pray or do whatever else they needed to survive the moment alongside their teammate, friend and brother.

Should they have been giving updates as to what was going on? Well, nobody knew what was going on. It also would have been crass to speculate. Hamlin's collapse came seconds after the big hit after he had already stood back up following the tackle. It was a confusing moment, and I don't think commentating would have done anyone any favors.

All we can do, then, is applaud the work that was done. Analyst and former player Ryan Clark had an especially important discussion with Scott Van Pelt that touched on the human aspect of the game we often don't think about.

What can I do?

It's normal to feel helpless when someone you know (or someone you don't) is critically ill. It's normal to feel like you want to help in some way. Though there's nothing we can do to impact his outcome directly, here are a couple of small (but big) ways you can get involved.

Learn CPR. The most crucial element of positive outcomes in case of cardiac arrest is timely response. Thankfully, medical personnel were immediately available to recognize the need for and initiate proper life-saving measures. In case you're wondering about the preparation teams and officials take, ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell thoughtfully explained the league's Emergency Action Plan here.

Unfortunately, out in the real world, there is no Emergency Action Plan. There's just us and the hope that we are able to step in during a time of need. So, it feels like the most meaningful thing we can do as a group is to ensure we are properly educated so we can help someone else in need, if we're ever called upon to do so.

The American Heart Association has a plethora of resources available, including:

You can also donate to Damar Hamlin's GoFundMe. This GoFundMe was originally established to support a toy drive sponsored by Damar's charity, the Chasing M's Foundation. He shared highlights from the original toy drive, which took place in Christmas of 2020, on his YouTube page.

Hamlin's GoFundMe received a flurry of donations following his collapse Monday night, far surpassing his goal original goal of $2,500. It was an incredible showing of support from across the league that football is much more than a sport. It is a community.

As of Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, the Chasing M's Foundation Community Toy Drive GoFundMe has raised over $4.5 million, and donations continue to pour in.

What happens now? Do they play the game?

The NFL has announced that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week and that they have not made changes to the Week 18 schedule. Sportsbooks and fantasy football league platforms are addressing the outcomes of the situation individually, which we've outlined here.

Without imminent plans to resume gameplay, it remains unclear how that will affect the record of these respective teams. For example, do they each take a tie? Does the NFL just simply... eliminate this game from their record? How does that affect the NFL playoff seedings?

All of that remains to be seen. It also doesn't really matter. What matters is Damar Hamlin, his family, friends, loved ones and teammates.

(Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)


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