Bills safety Damar Hamlin has surprised everyone with the progress he has made since going into cardiac arrest during Monday’s game against the Bengals. He remains in critical condition, but the outlook is positive.
The NFLPA held a news conference Thursday afternoon, only hours after doctors from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center also updated Hamlin’s condition.
“While there’s a long way to go, all signs are optimistic, highly optimistic, and point to what is likely to be a full neurologic recovery, and we’ve got to get there, but so far things have been very, very positive,” Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director, said. “When he woke up, which was much sooner than expected, his first question was, ‘Did we win the game?'”
The medical team has come to a diagnosis by exclusion, with everything pointing to commotio cordis. Commotio cordis is caused by a blunt blow to the chest, delivered at a specific point in the cardiac cycle, to induce a dangerous, life-threatening heart arrhythmia or cardiac arrest.
Col. Sidney Hines, the NFL’s deputy medical director, said Hamlin will have a “continuous evaluation” to look for other underlying causes or medical conditions.
“A lot of people have been speculating about what would have caused this [to a] young, healthy, great condition young man,” Hines said. “What we have seen through the video and what we know, Thom and I discussed this and probably said this in unison, commotio cordis, the blow that hits you in the chest and hits you in a very unique time and what’s when there’s an upstroke of the heart and go back to what an EKG looks like and the second peak, it had to hit you in the right place. So, it’s a very rare incidence that doesn’t happen very often at all, but we know about it. The emergency action plans preparing the teams ahead of time, that’s all part of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and that’s what happened. They were ready.”
Mayer stressed that Hamlin’s commotio cordis diagnosis is a first for the NFL.
“It is unusual and quite unique,” Mayer said. “The good news is if that continues to be the presumptive working diagnosis, that is so exceedingly rare that someone who had would not be at risk for the future, and if if indeed that turns out to be the bottom line diagnosis, then there’s been 24,000 men who have played this game in the National Football League, and this has never happened before, so it would be a 1 in 24,000 incidences.”