What really happened to Damar Hamlin?


Luke Willer

Players gather around Hamlin, while trainers work to keep him alive.

On Jan. 2, 2023, the Bills and Bengals faced off in one of the highest stakes games of the season. Both teams were fighting for a spot to potentially get the number one seed and first round bye in the playoffs, so naturally there was a lot of weight on this game.

Sports fans tuned in to watch what was one of the most anticipated games of the season. Families and friends tuned in, even those who had not been watching for the whole season to watch what would have been one of the greatest games. Tragedy struck when there was only five minutes left in the first quarter.

Defensive back Damar Hamlin was going in for a tackle on wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin hit the ground and got back up in a very normal way, but normal turned scary when Hamlin fell unconscious to the ground. All of this happened under the eyes of millions of people.

Trainers and the medical team rushed out to the field to see what exactly was going on. Players were seen hugging and crying on the sidelines. The entire environment of the stadium was quiet, and all parties were united in silence and respect for Hamlin.

Upon the realization of Hamlins cardiac arrest, CPR was administered, and the defibrillator was used to hopefully revive a man who at this moment had no pulse. With the very limited information we as viewers had, most assumed the man had died. There didn’t appear to be much urgency by the ambulance, and by the reaction of the players there was no reason to think anything else.

Fans came to realize that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after arrhythmia in his heart. A truly freak injury that has to occur during the 20 milliseconds where your heart is relaxing during the hit. This is an injury that is most common in baseball catchers, but still incredibly uncommon.

Later on we come to learn that he was revived on the field, and was breathing with assistance on the ride to the hospital. The players were told after Hamlin had been taken off the field that they would have a 5 minute warm-up and they would resume the game. As far as the players knew, a man had essentially died on the field just a few minutes earlier and they were expected to go forward and play this game as if that had not just happened.

It became very clear that this game however was not going to continue.

In this moment of tragedy, the Bengals and Bills were united, all of the fans present were united and Americans watching from home were united in concern and most surprisingly prayer for Damar Hamlin. Trending on twitter was #prayfordamar.

While it is amazing to see our country united for one person I think it speaks volumes about our culture that it takes a life threatening injury and the uncertainty that comes with that to unite us. Many people can’t even unite when tragedies like school shootings happen, things immediately turn political. This event, unlike anything else, brought people from all sides of the aisle together in a way that we so rarely see.

Hamlin is now in stable condition and breathing on his own. He has no major damage to his brain and looks like he is making a speedy recovery.