Damar Hamlin Is Out of Hospital 9 Days After Cardiac Arrest—He’ll ‘Continue His Rehabilitation At Home’

Sophie Hanson
Damar Hamlin
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–Injuries are part and parcel of playing football, but the sports community was left anxiously wondering what happened to Damar Hamlin when the Buffalo Bill’s safety suddenly collapsed after a seemingly routine tackle on Monday, January 2, 2023.

Just nine minutes into the game, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins rammed into Hamlin at full speed, hitting him in the chest area after catching a 13-yard pass from quarterback Joe Burrow. The 24-year-old Hamlin stood up, appeared to adjust his helmet and took two steps before falling backward; his body appearing limp in a horrifying moment for all tuned into the game.

Hamlin would be down for more than 18 minutes while receiving medical attention on the field—both CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) were administered before an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital. Bills players gathered around their teammate to shield him from public view, though they and their competitors were visibly distressed by what had occurred to their comrade. Here’s what happened to Damar Hamlin and whether he’s OK.

What happened to Damar Hamlin?

What happened to Damar Hamlin? The Buffalo Bills defensive player experienced cardiac arrest after his tackle on Higgins, according to an official statement by his team. “Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals,” the statement said. “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.”

Damar Hamlin

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Later in the evening, one of Hamlin’s representatives posted an update to Twitter saying his “vitals are back to normal” but he had been intubated while doctors continued to perform tests. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent observed it was of “critical importance” medical professionals were able to restart Hamlin’s heart while he was still on the field.

Miami-based cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby tweeted that Hamlin’s injury “resembled commotio cordis—a phenomenon that occurs when a sudden blunt impact to the chest causes cardiac arrest.” Despite the physicality of the NFL, this is an extremely rare occurrence; there are about 30 cases in the US each year in total. Dr. Brian Sutterer explained on his YouTube channel that commotio cordis is so rare “we typically only think we’re going to read about it in textbooks.”

He continued: “Essentially what can happen is when you have a blunt trauma to the chest that occurs at exactly the right time in the cardiac electrical cycle, your heart can be sent into cardiac arrest.” Two things need to occur for arrhythmia and arrest to occur: The hit has to be hard enough and fall within “milliseconds of a time window”. Outside of that 15ish millisecond-second window, you’ll “be fine”, explained Dr. Sutterer but commotio cordis is serious and can be life-threatening.

Damar Hamlin

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The National Library of Medicine says some of the earliest reports of commotio cordis “may relate to legends like Dim Mak, an ancient Chinese martial art technique to cause death by a carefully directed blow, christened ‘the touch of death’” and provides inspiration for the “five-point palm exploding heart technique” featured in Quentin Tarantino’s martial arts film Kill Bill.

It took the NFL about an hour after Hamlin collapsed to officially suspend the game, as league executives gathered information from referee Shawn Smith, both team’s coaches and the NFL Players Association. “It was fluid and things were changing by the minute,” Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations told TIME. “It was obvious on the phone that the emotions were extremely high. It was a very volatile situation.” ESPN reported both teams were given a five-minute warmup period to resume playing, but Vincent refuted this notion. “I’m not sure where that came from,” he said. “It never crossed our mind to talk about warming up to resume play. That’s ridiculous. That’s insensitive. That’s not a place we should ever be in.”

NFL Executive Vice President of Communications Jeff Miller added after the postponement: “There’s nothing in consideration right now. Our concern is for the player and his wellbeing. At the appropriate time, I’m sure that we’ll have a conversation around the next steps regarding the game,” per Newsweek.

What is Damar Hamlin’s condition now?

Damar Hamlin was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, nine days after he collapsed on the football field. According to a statement published by the Buffalo Bills on their official Twitter, Hamlin will “continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills.”

“Damar Hamlin has been discharged from Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, a Kaleida Health facility in Buffalo, N.Y. Hamlin was admitted on Monday and went through a comprehensive medical evaluation as well as a series of cardiac, neurological and vascular testing on Tuesday.”

Critical care physician Dr. Jamie Nadler shared in a statement, “We have completed a series of tests and evaluations, and in consultation with the team physicians, we are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills.”

On Saturday, January 7, less than a week after the on-field incident, Hamlin made his first public statement on social media to thank his fans for all their support. “When you put real love out into the world it comes back to you 3x’s as much..,” Hamlin wrote. “The Love has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for every single person that prayed for me and reached out.” He continued: “We brung the world back together behind this,” he continued. “If you know me you know this only gone make me stronger. On a long road keep praying for me!”

Hamlin had shown “remarkable improvement” in the days following the accident, the Buffalo Bills announced on January 5, 2023. “While still critically ill, he has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact,” a statement said. “His lungs continue to heal and he is making steady progress.” Moments prior, teammate and cornerback Kaiir Elam tweeted: “Our boy is doing better, awake and showing signs of improvement.”

According to a report filed by USA Today, Hamlin opened his eyes and could grip the hands of those close to him. “Damar has made substantial improvement overnight,” the agency that represents Hamlin, Agency 1 Sports, posted on Twitter. “We are so thankful for all the first responders, doctors, and hospital staff and everyone who played a role in this process.”

In the Bills’ first game since Hamlin’s emergency, they honored their teammate by carrying a big flag bearing Hamlin’s number three as they ran out of the tunnel to face the New England Patriots on Sunday, January 7. Players also had patches of the number three on their jerseys. It wasn’t just the Bills, either. All around the NFL, teams showed their support in solidarity with Hamlin.

Buffalo Bills

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“Throughout this week, the entire Western New York community, NFL family and people around the world have been praying for Damar Hamlin,” the announcer said before the national anthem was sung. “Damar’s amazing recovery has lifted our collective spirits and we are forever grateful for the love and support Damar’s family and friends, and our organization have received. Today we celebrate Damar’s recovery, our love for Damar and our gratitude. Please rise and show your support as only Bills mafia can.”

On the evening of January 3, 2023, his uncle Dorrian Glenn gave an update about Hamlin’s condition on a segment with CNN, saying the safety needed to be resuscitated a second time. “His heart had went out so they had to resuscitate him twice,” his uncle Dorrian Glenn told CNN Tuesday night. “They resuscitated him on the field before they brought him to the hospital and then they resuscitated him a second time when they got him to the hospital.”

Glenn went on to explain that his nephew was still sedated to “give him a better chance” of recovery but there’s still a fair bit of work to do. “They sedated him just to give a better chance for him to just continue to heal better. We are just taking it day by day. It seems like he’s trending upwards in a positive way,” Glenn explained. He said his nephew had been “flipped over on his stomach” to help with blood in his lungs. The next step, Glenn said, is to get the 24-year-old breathing on his own.

“I’m not a crier, but I’ve never cried so hard in my life. Just to know, like, my nephew basically died on the field and they brought him back to life,” he added. “It’s just heartbreaking. It was a gut punch.” He continued: “I’m just glad he’s alive and able to fight and trying to get better and recover,” Glenn said.

commotio cordis

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Hamlin’s rep Jordon Rooney explained that there was no further information other than that Hamlin is fighting. “We don’t have a specific medical update at this time. He’s fighting, he’s pushing through,” Rooney told ET. “He’s working to get better. I think there’s still a lot that’s up in the air that we can’t come out publicly with a statement ’til we know what exactly is going on. It’s honestly a day-by-day thing. We’re just monitoring it each day to see where he’s at.”

Dr. Merije T. Chukumerije, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills, California, told ET that while the chances of survival after performing CPR are fairly low, coming in at only 15 to 20 percent, Hamlin has his age and his overall health are positive factors. “His young age is the best thing he has going for him, ’cause he actually has a better chance of survival because of that,” he said.

“However, his young age did not have anything to do with what happened to him, and in this situation, it’s likely just the bad timing of the impact to his chest, which these players put themselves at risk for each time,” Chukumerije shares, echoing previous expert speculation that commotio cordis—sudden blunt force trauma to the chest that occurs at just the right time during the heart’s beat cycle—was responsible for the NFL star’s collapse.

“This situation, I think from the limited information that we have and watching the video, it looks like the mechanism of arrest in Damar Hamlin was a direct impact to the center of his chest, which unfortunately happened at a perfect time when his heart was trying to relax and that is what lead to the sudden cardiac arrest,” he explained.

Celebrities’ responses to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest

Social media was bursting with messages of support for Hamlin and his family. The recently retired defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, J.J. Watt, said on Twitter that after Hamlin’s collapse, the game was “not important.” “Damar Hamlin’s life is important,” Watt said. “Please be ok. Please.”

Damar Hamlin

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Robert Griffin III, a former quarterback who played in the NFL for several seasons asked fans not to reshare the video of Hamlin collapsing but instead share images of the Bills team circling around him. “Share this because we are all Praying for him and his family” he tweeted.

Many fans, including Griffin, questioned why it took the organization so long to call the game off. “CANCEL THE GAME ALREADY,” Griffin said in an all-caps post on Twitter. “No one cares about this game at all anymore,” Griffin said in another post. “Praying for Damar Hamlin the man, the son, the brother and the friend. What just happened was traumatic to so many but all that matters right now is that he STAYS WITH US.”

Hamlin’s condition sent ripples throughout the sporting world beyond NFL, too. LA Lakers star LeBron James said following his game the same night against Charlotte’s Hornets that Hamlin’s collapse was “a terrible thing” to witness. “The safety of players in all sports is always the most important,” James said during a postgame press conference. “You never want to see anything like that happen even in the type of competition that they’re playing in.”

After his horrific injury, support for his toy fundraiser skyrocketed. His GoFundMe page, which via The Chasing M’s Foundation, helps positively impact children hit hardest by the COVID pandemic, is still active and has raised more than $3.8 million, significantly more than its $2,500 goal thanks to more than 146,000 donations. “I saw you get hurt on Monday night football. Sending prayers and love to you and your family. May God heal you completely,” one donor wrote. “Buffalo stands with you. You living through this will be our Super Bowl. We love you,” another wrote.

According to the New York Times, Hamlin was a senior at the University of Pittsburgh when he came up with the idea to give back to his hometown. At the time, he was a team captain and the foundation of Pitt’s defense. In December 2020, he set up this fundraiser for a community toy drive six months before he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft. “As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me,” Hamlin wrote in the introduction of the GoFundMe page.

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