Damar Hamlin’s Heart Scare: The Road to Recovery

Damar Hamlin is a talented American football player who has faced a major obstacle in his health. The Buffalo Bills safety recently collapsed on the field due to a heart issue, which raised concerns about his ability to play the sport again. In this post, we will take a look at the entire issue surrounding Damar Hamlin, including what happened, his condition, how he was treated, whether it is safe for him to play football again, and how courageous it has to be to even consider going back on the field.

During a game in early January 2023, Hamlin collapsed due to experiencing a cardiac arrest on the field after making a tackle. He was administered CPR on the field and then immediately taken to the hospital, where tests revealed that he had experienced a heart arrhythmia. This special condition, commotio cordis, occurs when the heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or in an irregular pattern, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, medical conditions, and certain medications.

I’m not a doctor, and for this blog post, I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of explaining the condition. However, I do want to shed light on the incident, but most importantly on the mental capacity that it requires for an athlete to be willing to go back to work after facing what could be considered a near-death experience.

Here’s a link to Medical Doctor Brain Sutterer explaining the condition more detailed.

When I first saw the images, I was in complete shock. Damar went into the tackle, got right back up after the hit, and then shockingly collapsed a few seconds later. In a physically demanding sport like American football, you’d think this is normal and that you’d just keep playing. Damar laying unconscious on the floor seemed surreal, but thankfully the paramedics and everyone else around him reacted fast and rushed to get him conscious again.

The images of his teammates and the medical staff being around him and everyone praying for him reminded me of the incident that happened to football player Christian Eriksen, who experienced a cardiac arrest, during the 2022 European Championships. In Eriksen’s case, his heart stopped beating and he collapsed without any outside contact, which was extremely frightening as well. Most of us would not think of pro athletes having a cardiac arrest, but it has happened quite frequently in recent years. This list mentions every single athlete who has experienced a cardiac arrest during a game before.

The fact that most people do not associate such an incident with athletes stems from the fact that we associate athletes with very healthy people. However, cardiac arrest is the leading cause of sudden death in young competitive athletes. Although the phenomenon is rare, Black youth are much more likely than white youth to suddenly die of heart failure. What I find so significant about Hamlin is his survival, which we are all certainly grateful for, and his plan to get back on the field. Hamlin might not have survived had it not been for the quick medical response. Therefore, I have so much respect for someone who goes through a traumatic experience and chooses to be courageous enough to get back on the field. It takes a lot of heart and a good portion of mental toughness.

In this article by the New York Post, it is mentioned that Hamlin will play football again, although he himself hasn’t released an official statement as of date. He had been discharged from the hospital a week after the incident and has been continuing his rehabilitation process at home and at the hospitals facilities. So, he’s being monitored closely, going through extensive tests and physical treatment, and working to a specialized workout regimen.

Let’s get into one of the two main questions I have.

Is it Safe for Damar Hamlin to Play Football Again?

Well, it depends. Recovery after a cardiac arrest usually takes from 6 to 12 months. The amount of damage his organs (heart, lungs, and other organs) have taken will determine whether or not it is safe for him to come back. It is always possible for doctors to suggest that he undergo further testing, have surgery, or participate in other forms of treatment to correct the problem. One of the treatment forms that were given to Eriksen, which Hamlin could potentially receive as well, is an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator). Implanted device that responds to life-threatening rhythms and can shock to reset the heart rate and prevent sudden cardiac arrest. For most of us, this modern science might sound fairly new and impressive, but in the world of sports, it is mentioned quite frequently.

Given the fact that Hamlin’s physical condition lives up to the expectations of him returning to football like Eriksen did There’s still a major part that plays a huge role in making this entirely possible.

What does this decision take out of him mentally? 

Hamlin’s heart scare is more than just a wake-up call; this near-death experience is not something to be played with. In an interview, Hamlin said that he is “still trying to process all the emotions and the trauma that comes from dealing with a situation like that.” I can only imagine how difficult it is to process the emotions from all of that. Unlike Eriksen, who decided to be back on the field within two days, Hamlin hasn’t made it public yet. It can be very scary to have to get back on the field, but like so many other things, especially if you want to get ahead in life, you’ve got to face your fears. As unfortunate as it sounds, the only other way would be to run away. I’m not being insensitive, as I am writing, and I have to be very mindful of people’s feelings and experiences. But in most cases, as I mentioned in my previous blog post” your body can only follow where your mind has already been.”

In my previous post, I spoke about mental toughness, visualization, and positive self-talk. In this case, returning back to the field, we’re dealing with the same components again. Apart from all the medical testing and processes he has been going through, he has to be the one seeing himself back on the field. It doesn’t matter what the doctors are telling him or publicly saying; if Damar isn’t mentally preparing himself or making a clear decision on wanting to be back, it’ll be an extensive process for him. He might be physically ready and cleared, but getting back on the field can only happen with him making a deliberate decision.

If he fully trusts that God has placed the right people, tools, tests, etc. around him and believes that being able to be back on the field is possible, then there’s nothing that will stop that from happening. We’ll never know how long that will take, but one thing is certain: once you’ve made a firm decision, it will be carried out. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. I’ve experienced it myself before, and I believe once Hamlin has made his decision final and public, he too will be back on the field.

If you’ve made it up until now and finished reading, I want to thank you for taking your time and reading this great piece of mine.

Thanks a lot and until next time

Your Lion 🙂

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