On January 2nd, millions of people watching Bills vs. Bengals Monday Night Football witnessed one of the most terrifying injuries in sports history. On a routine play, with six minutes left in the first quarter, Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught a pass and was tackled by Bills safety Damar Hamlin. Following the hit, Hamlin stood up before collapsing to the ground. The Bills medical staff rushed onto the field to tend to Hamlin, who was not breathing when the medical staff reached him on the field. Bills trainer Denny Kellington administered CPR to Hamlin on the field for eleven minutes before an ambulance carted Hamlin away. He was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Commentator Joe Buck announced that the NFL gave the two teams five minutes to warm up before the game would resume. The NFL has faced criticism over this initial response as many were shocked the NFL would send the teams back out after such a horrific occurrence. Many players on both sides were visually emotional with many in tears. After a few minutes, Zac Taylor and Sean McDermott, the team’s head coaches, met in the middle of the field to discuss how to move forward and both agreed to postpone the game. The two teams went back into their respective locker rooms and waited for the official postponement. The NFL canceled the game roughly an hour later.
Both teams ended with one less game on their record. This was extremely important for the NFL playoffs. The Bills, Bengals, and Chiefs all had the opportunity to seize the number one seed in the AFC guaranteeing home field advantage for the entire playoffs at the time of the postponement. It was decided by the NFL that if both the Bills and Chiefs won their games in week eighteen of the season and both reached the AFC Championship game that the game would be played at a neutral site.
It has been determined since the incident occurred that Damar Hamlin’s chest was hit in a specific way at a specific moment in his heartbeat that caused cardiac arrest. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the Bills medical staff and the staff at University of Cincinnati Medical Center Hamlin has made tremendous strides and is no longer at the hospital. Thankfully, he will survive and should live a healthy life and potentially even return to football if that is the path he chooses. After waking up in the hospital his first question he asked the doctors was “Who won the game?”.
Damar Hamlin’s injury has helped to spread awareness about player safety in the NFL and other major sports along with the need for people to be CPR certified. The hope is that in the future, injuries like the one Damar Hamlin suffered can be prevented by better equipment and teaching better techniques. Just hours after his injury, millions of people donated to Damar Hamlin’s charity that helps give toys out to underprivileged children. What happened to Damar Hamlin was a shock to the entire sports world and will hopefully bring about change regarding player safety.