Although I live in Packer country, my first football team was the Buffalo Bills so I, like many, sat down to catch some of the Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2 between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. I tuned in at the point where the announcers were discussing the possibility that the game would be suspended and I wondered what weather event was hitting Cincinnati, especially since everything looked okay on screen. I checked my phone and was shocked to learn the reason for the suspension. I jumped to YouTube to better understand what I had missed. And I saw what appeared to be a “normal” collision between two adult men running toward each other at a high rate of speed. I saw Damar Hamlin stand up, then drop, and I saw his involuntary leg movements between the sea of legs that quickly gathered around him. This was not good.
While I learned more details of what happened and waited to hear if a young man would survive an on-field cardiac arrest, others seized the obvious opportunity to declare his collapse the result of a Covid vaccine. I mean, that makes more sense than accepting the reality of the physics involved in two large objects hurtling themselves towards each other resulting in tremendous force and reaction when they meet. Unfortunately, the NFL’s attempts to improve gear to protect football players from tragic consequences of these types of intentional collisions can only prevent so much and may, in reality, increase the force applied. And, just as unfortunately, conspiracy theorists will continue to grab any opportunity available to spin their yarns.
I, like many, scanned the sports channels for updates. I felt awkward when a sports broadcaster delivered a prayer. I understand that some people turn to prayer during tragedies; it is easier sometimes to plead for a religious miracle than to accept the harsh limits of reality. I wasn’t looking for prayer from a sports channel, though; just facts. I also think implying a god can dictate a medical outcome does a great disservice to the people who dedicate their lives to a medical profession.
While we wait for a final determination of the sequence of medical events that caused Hamlin’s arrest, the news that he is recovering is remarkable and uplifting. One theory postulated is commotio cordis, that is, cardiac arrest secondary to a hard blow straight to the chest. The good news is a person can survive a cardiac arrest from commotio cordis with immediate intervention. By all accounts, the training and emergency medical staff reacted professionally and quickly. Despite the trauma involved in playing in the NFL, cardiac arrest is certainly not expected. Any delay in recognizing the arrest and starting CPR could have significantly altered the outcome for Hamlin. The training and medical personnel deserve all the praise and credit.
Damar Hamlin did not collapse because of a vaccine and he was not resuscitated by divine intervention. He collapsed because he chooses to play a violent sport where “normal” collisions have the potential to stop a heart. He survived because of the medical training of the dedicated professionals doing their jobs and suggesting otherwise demeans those efforts.
This unexpected cardiac arrest story appears headed toward a happy ending. Using it to highlight the difference that CPR made in the outcome is a way we can all benefit from the publicity surrounding what could have been the ultimate tragedy. Wouldn’t it be better if we could rely on someone knowing CPR instead of hoping for answers to prayers? Let’s take a moment and refresh our skills or learn CPR. Let’s choose CPR over god.
And, now that the Packers are out of contention, go Bills!