Damar Hamlin Reveals Official Cause of His Collapse, a Condition Rare to Adult Football Players

Damar Hamlin Reveals Official Cause of His Collapse, a Condition Rare to Adult Football Players
Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates after a tackle during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, on Nov. 13, 2022. (Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)
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Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who almost died after going into cardiac arrest on the field last season, has revealed that he collapsed because of a condition that mostly happens to teenagers playing baseball.

During a press conference on Tuesday, the Bills announced that Hamlin has made a remarkable recovery over the past three months and has been “fully cleared” to return to playing football.

“It’s exciting to go from a guy who was fighting for his life to now—you know, the story hasn’t been written,” said Brandon Beane, the Bill’s general manager. “Now, it’s about the comeback.”

The team also said what caused their 25-year-old safety to collapse during the Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals was a condition called commotio cordis.

“The diagnosis of what happened to me was basically commotio cordis. It’s a direct blow at a specific point in your heartbeat that causes cardiac arrest,” Hamlin explained at the press conference. “And five to seven seconds later, you fall out.”

During the first quarter of the Bills-Bengals game, Hamlin make a tackle of Cincinnati wide receiver Tee Higgins, stood up from the tackle, adjusted his helmet, and fell back to the ground. First responders performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator on him on-field before rushing him to the hospital by ambulance.

“They almost lost me. I died on national TV in front of the whole world,” he said. “You know what I mean? That right there is just the biggest blessing of it all. For me to still have my people and for my people to still have me.”

Rare Among Professional Football Players

Commotio cordis, which itself is rare, mostly occurs in amateur sports settings in teenage boys, according to online medical database StarPearls. This may have to do with the fact that teenagers have a thinner chest wall relative to an adult, and that they are more likely to participate in organized amateur sports where they suffer blunt chest traumas.
The U.S. Commotio Cordis Registry, a database maintained by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, documented 224 cases of commotio cordis from 1995 to 2010. According to a 2010 analysis by the New England Journal of Medicine, the mean age of those victims was 15 years, with only a handful of them (9 percent) being adults 25 years or older.

The analysis also shows that the cases overwhelmingly resulted from blows to the chest from a baseball, softball, or hockey puck. Although there were a few cases where football players were hit in the chest by opponents’ helmets or shoulder or elbow in bodily collisions.

“In baseball, commotio cordis is often triggered when players are struck in the chest by balls that have been pitched, batted, or thrown in a variety of scenarios. In hockey, defensive players may intentionally use their chests to block the puck from an opponent’s high-velocity shot,” the report says.

“Commotio cordis may also result from physical contact between competitors,” it added. “Such chest blows are produced by the shoulder, forearm, elbow, leg, foot, or head, as when two outfielders inadvertently collide while tracking a baseball in the air, or, alternatively, when a hockey stick is thrust into an opponent’s chest.”

The 2010 analysis still appears to hold true. In a review published last month in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, one of the specialist journals of the American College of Cardiology, scientists identified 334 commotio cordis cases from 53 research papers between 1980 and 2022. According to the review, 94 percent of all sports-related cases resulted from projectiles, with baseball (45 percent), softball (11 percent), and football (9 percent) being the most common sports settings. The median age of all 334 victims was 16 years old.

Experts Remain Skeptical

The official explanation of Hamlin’s collapse has prompted some skepticism on social media,  including from Dr. Peter McCullough, who argued that it was more likely the result of myocarditis caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As a cardiologist I am not convinced,” McCullough wrote on Twitter. “#COVIDVACCINE myocarditis is a far more likely etiology. Return is perilous because risk of repeat cardiac arrest on the playing field without an ICD.”

“The most common cause of commotio cordis is a line drive in baseball or a hard shot in lacrosse hitting an unprotected sternum. I watched the Bills game live and film clips of Hamlin’s hit. I ruled out commotio cordis by mechanism of injury,” McCullough told the Epoch Times in response to a request for further comments, highlighting the fact that professional football players wear breast plate pads to protect sternum and helmets to diffuse projectiles.

“I am concerned Hamlin took one of the COVID-19 vaccines and had subclinical myocarditis which is known to occur with these products.  If athletes compete with myocarditis it can result in cardiac arrest as in the case of Hamlin,” he added. “It is unprecedented for an athlete to have an on-the-field primary cardiac arrest and 1) not receive an ICD and 2) return to full competition. From my vantage point, Hamlin’s decision to return to the field is high risk and could result in a repeat cardiac arrest.”

Dr. Anish Koka, a cardiologist, said that there might be some unidentified underlying causes that lowered Hamlin’s threshold for ventricular fibrillation (VF), which is why a standard tackle could have induced the cardiac arrest.

“Commotio is a diagnosis of exclusion. There is no diagnostic test for it,” he told The Epoch Times. “But [it] could also be idiopathic VF: VF with no known cause.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
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