The life-threatening injury to Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills during a game against the Bengals, televised on “Monday Night Football,” resonated around the league and the world of sports.
Here’s what to know:
In the first quarter of the Jan. 2 game in Cincinnati, Hamlin, a 24-year-old safety, tackled Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, taking him to the ground. Hamlin stood up after the tackle and took two steps but then collapsed to the turf. Higgins was not hurt.
Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and was administered CPR, and his heartbeat was revived on the field. He was then taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in critical condition.
After about an hour, and through conflicting reports about whether play might resume, the game was postponed indefinitely.
Fans were reliant on the game’s broadcaster, ESPN, for news about a terrifying injury rather than scores and highlights. “It was a nightmare,” said Joe Buck, the game’s play-by-play announcer. “It certainly was nothing that anyone is ever prepared for. You have all that hype and buildup, and everyone can’t wait to watch this matchup, and in the snap of a finger it’s completely different. Football just goes out the window.”
How is Hamlin now?
Hamlin was released from the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday and transferred to the Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute before being discharged altogether on Wednesday. The Bills said Hamlin was released after he underwent a comprehensive medical evaluation on Tuesday, including cardiac, neurological and vascular testing.
“We have completed a series of tests and evaluations,” said Jamie Nadler, the physician who led Hamlin’s care at Buffalo General Medical Center. “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.”
More on Damar Hamlin’s Collapse
Doctors in Cincinnati said Hamlin was upgraded from critical condition on Monday morning and met several other requirements for transport, including no longer needing intensive nursing care or intensive respiratory therapy.
Hamlin had his breathing tube removed on Friday and walked with help that same day. On Sunday, he watched the Bills’ win against the New England Patriots. The doctors joked that Hamlin “set off every alarm in the I.C.U.” when he excitedly jumped up and down in response to the Bills’ returning the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Recovery from a life-threatening event like the one Hamlin experienced usually takes weeks to months, said Dr. Timothy Pritts, a trauma surgeon who was part of Hamlin’s care team at U.C.M.C. Dr. Pritts said Hamlin was on “a very normal to even accelerated” trajectory, which means that his progress has been a little bit ahead of what’s expected at each stage.
Hamlin will continue to need different kinds of therapy and care from specialists, his doctors said, as he regains strength and continues to recover from being intubated for three days. They declined to speculate on how far Hamlin is from returning to normal life and said that any discussion of whether he could play football again would be “significantly into the future.”
What caused the cardiac arrest?
It is not yet known why Hamlin’s heart stopped. But cardiac experts said the blow to his chest may have sent his heart into an arrhythmia. That injury is unusual: The chest must be struck in a brief moment — about 20 milliseconds — while the heart is relaxing.
Who is Damar Hamlin?
Hamlin is from McKees Rocks, Pa., and went to college at nearby Pittsburgh. He was a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 and became a starter for the Bills in September 2022.
While in college, he organized a toy drive. In the aftermath of his injury, more than 200,000 people have combined to contribute over $8 million to it, including the star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, among many others. Jordon Rooney, a marketing representative for Hamlin, has said the money will go to Hamlin’s charitable foundation.
“Whether it was adversity or high times, working for his charity, or helping an athlete or student of lesser caliber,” said Terry Totten, his high school coach at Central Catholic. “Whatever it was, he was steady, calm and confident in himself. A true leader by example. He’s an incredible person.”
What has the reaction been?
As players returned to practice after Hamlin’s injury, some said it was prompting reflection and conversation about his health and the risks players take with injuries.
Calais Campbell, a veteran defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens, said it was “just natural” to ask whether playing football was worth its dangers.
“You wouldn’t be doing yourself justice if you didn’t contemplate the risk that you were taking and ask if you want to keep putting yourself in that position,” Campbell said. Referring to the hit Hamlin took before his heart stopped beating, Campbell said, “I keep thinking that I’ve tackled like that hundreds of times and I’ve been fine. But what if I’m not fine the next time?”
Giants safety Julian Love, who met Hamlin as they considered which college teams to play for, said Hamlin’s injury was not easy to compartmentalize.
“A lot of people in this building have never seen something like that,” he said. “Ever in football. And so it’s a very freak thing. I’m not gonna sit here and say it’s not hard to push forward.”
President Biden, told reporters that he had spoken with Hamlin’s mother and father. Asked if he believed the N.F.L. was getting too dangerous, Biden said: “I don’t know how you avoid it. I don’t.”
Where does the game stand?
The game was halted after nine minutes with the Bengals ahead, 7-3. The N.F.L. announced on Thursday that the game would not be resumed.
N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell called the decision to cancel the game “difficult, but necessary” under the “extraordinary circumstances.”
Team owners on Friday approved adjustments to the A.F.C. playoffs as a result of the decision. Both the Bills and the Bengals were in contention for the top seed in their conference and home-field advantage through the playoffs.
The Bills (13-3) and Bengals (12-4) each played one fewer game than the other teams in the N.F.L. after the regular season concludes this weekend. To account for potential competitive discrepancies, the A.F.C. championship game will be held at a neutral site if the teams involved did not play the same number of games, and if both teams could have been the top seed had the Bengals-Bills matchup been completed.
How is it affecting Buffalo?
“It has been the snowball that I’ve been hoping would end,” said Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive. “Karma owes us.”