Cardiac arrest and Damar Hamlin: What we know

The Buffalo Bills players pray for teammate Damar Hamlin during the first half of an NFL...
The Buffalo Bills players pray for teammate Damar Hamlin during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cincinnati. The game has been postponed after Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin collapsed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)(Joshua A. Bickel | AP)
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 7:37 AM PST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 7:55 AM PST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during Monday Night Football, his team announced early Tuesday.

Hamlin, 24, got up after what looked like a routine tackle but then collapsed on the field.

An ambulance drove out to him as Hamlin’s teammates kneeled or stood around him and first responders administered CPR.

“His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition,” the Bills said in a tweet early Tuesday.

The game was postponed but the NFL provided an update Tuesday saying the Bengals-Bills game will not resume this week and there has been no decision if it will be played at a later date.

What is cardiac arrest and how is it different than a heart attack?

The Mayo Clinic says cardiac arrest is the abrupt stop of all heart functions such as pumping blood to the body and breathing, usually due to abnormalities of the heart that can be inherited but undetected.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, a heart attack can sometimes trigger an electrical disturbance that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

If not treated immediately, sudden cardiac arrest can be deadly.

Survival is possible with fast, appropriate medical care. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using a defibrillator - or even just giving compressions to the chest - can improve the chances of survival until emergency workers arrive.

One cause, according to the Mayo Clinic and the Sports Institute, is a blunt chest injury, or a hard hit to the chest called commotio cordis.

It occurs in athletes who are hit hard in the chest by sports equipment like a baseball or hockey puck or from contact with another player, the Sports Institute reports.

This is different than a cardiac contusion called contusio cordis, where a blunt chest trauma like a car accident damages the structure of the heart, according to the American Heart Association.

About one or two in every 100,000 young athletes experience a sudden cardiac arrest annually, according to the Sports Institute. Males are at greater risk than females, and African American athletes are at greater risk than white athletes.

“For reasons we don’t understand, the risk seems to be higher in football and men’s basketball,” reads the Sports Institute’s website.

It also states:

“If an athlete collapses, assume it is a sudden cardiac arrest until proven otherwise. The most important factor determining whether a person survives sudden cardiac arrest is how quickly he or she receives a shock from an automated external defibrillators (AED). A few minutes’ delay can be the difference between life and death.”

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