Sports medicine specialist advocates for certain type of protective shirt

Dr. Chad Stephens says players can prepare for a blow to the chest with protective undergarments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Damar Hamlin’s recovery is moving in “a positive direction” two days after the Buffalo Bills safety collapsed and went into cardiac arrest during a game Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals, the player’s marketing representative said Wednesday.

Jordon Rooney, a family spokesman who described himself as a good friend of the player, said Hamlin’s family was staying positive and buoyed by the outpouring of worldwide support the second-year Bills player has received since his heart stopped during the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game. Hamlin was resuscitated on the field before being loaded into an ambulance and transported the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The Bills said Wednesday that Hamlin remained hospitalized in critical condition but displayed signs of improvement on Tuesday and overnight. They said he was expected to remain in intensive care as his medical team continued to monitor and treat him.

News4JAX sports anchor and reporter Cole Pepper says concussion conversations are one thing — but this is different.

“I don’t know if there’s a whole lot that the league, in general, is going to react to with this, from a strategic plan moving forward, because it’s such a freak situation,” Pepper said. “I think you’ll see teams and players react, thinking, ‘I don’t want that to happen to me, and if there’s anything I can do to try to avoid that happening to me, and I can still play at the level I want to play at, I’ll do it.’”

Depending on the force — and the time — of a sudden impact from a ball, an elbow or a tackle, the rhythm of the heartbeat can change and send a person into cardiac arrest.

It hasn’t been confirmed that this is what happened to Hamlin on Monday, but specialists haven’t ruled it out.

Dr. Chad Stephens is an interventional pain and sports medicine specialist who says players can prepare for such a blow to the chest with protective undergarments.

“I feel like that is something we should go back to thinking about to protect our athletes from these unexpected, unknown and unpredictable events that happen,” Stephens said.

Unequal Hart (Unequal)

Stephens advocates for products from the company named Unequal. It has shirts with layered padding around the chest. They have been proven to have a 1 in 10 chance of preventing an irregular heartbeat.

I asked Stephens why this product hasn’t been brought up before.

“We did have a pretty good exposure of the Kevlar inserts in the football helmets,” Stephens said. “There’s a balance that has to take place here where the athletes have to feel like they still have the edge.”

I showed the shirts to Pepper, who says the player protection has changed over the last few years — and so has technology.

“There is so much attention paid to Hamlin situation, I think you have a lot of players — and a lot of companies — who will probably say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a solution for this,’” Pepper said.

Those padded shirts are available at local sports stores and can benefit athletes in all contact sports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad