Cardiologist, head physician for Jaguars weigh in on Bills’ Damar Hamlin’s condition

24-year-old safety in critical condition after collapse on field

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Buffalo Bills announced that the 24-year-old safety Damar Hamlin spent the night in intensive care and remained in critical condition a day after his heart stopped while making a tackle in the opening quarter of the Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

News4JAX on Tuesday spoke with a cardiologist and the head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars about Hamlin’s condition, and they say this is rate.

In the middle of a high-energy football game, it was scary to watch. You never know what will happen in a high-contact sport, but people working in the NFL say they were prepared for this and will continue to be in the future.

“It was traumatic,” said parent Nikki Boutin.

Boutin told News4JAX on Tuesday about how she saw Hamlin collapse mid-game Monday evening. She said it makes her think about her child.

“My son is 8. He loves football. He would love to play football,” Boutin said. “And I just, I can’t do it.”

News4JAX spoke with cardiologist Dr. Kabir Yousuf, who explained what the heart does in a case of cardiac arrest.

“You’re actually not having a good squeeze of the heart, and so you get the fibrillation that occurs, and you don’t get the adequate circulation of the blood through the body,” Yousuf said.

Yousuf says the hit Hamlin took may or may not be linked to his collapse.

“The blood pressure, heart rate effects in the body that occur before he’s going for that hit, let’s say, may had been sufficient for him to have this occur,” Yousuf said.

Yousuf also commented on sudden cardiac arrest in young people.

“They’re rare, extremely rare, thankfully,” Yousuf said. “But there are certain conditions that are associated with athletes, that again, need to be screened for and identified early as possible.”

We can’t eliminate injuries or hard contact in this sport. But we can prepare.

Head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars Dr. Kevin Kaplan says players are extensively screened, and he commends the medical staff who responded to Hamlin during the game.

“Believe it or not, before the season, every NFL team rehearses for situations like this,” Kaplan said. “We’re in the indoor in Jacksonville, and we run through every scenario that we possibly can because you never want to go into a scenario like this not knowing what you’re going to do.”

Medical staff got to Hamlin within seconds, and he was given CPR. Kaplan says it likely kept him alive.

While the sport may no longer be for everyone, there are steps in play for the players’ safety.

“This is such a dangerous sport to play — even though I love watching it,” Boutin.

Kaplan says that even though we don’t see this frequently, it’s probably the most important thing to be prepared for.

“At that exact time, that type of hit to the chest, it’s very much kind of doing reverse CPR, so to speak, where you’re putting the heart in an abnormal rhythm, and with that abnormal rhythm, you can go into a cardiac arrest, which, you know, obviously, we don’t know all the details yet,” Kaplan said. “But that’s, that makes the most sense for what we saw.”

He says this reinforces their training — knowing how to give CPR and using AEDs can be the difference in saving a life.

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