Damar Hamlin took a hit and fans held their breath

Devin Brainch

Going into Monday, January 2nd, just two days into the New Year, fans were focused on the high stakes of the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals football game and its potential impact on the NFL playoffs. Only a few hours later, this was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

In fact, this game would go down as one of the scariest football games of all time. Nine minutes into what appeared to be a normal start to a game at the Bengals’ Paycor Stadium, Bills safety Damar Hamlin took a hit to the chest and suffered cardiac arrest. The following thirty minutes would impact the NFL, its fans, the players and coaches, and even people without any ties to football. This game wasn’t just routine – it was predicted to be the most-watched Monday Night Football game in many years with two top notch teams competing against each other, vying for the top seed in the American Football Conference. Millions of people tuned in to watch this sporting event.

As Hamlin collapsed, fans watching from home didn’t understand immediately what was happening. ESPN kept showing Bills head coach Sean McDermott, pacing while visibly shaking and muttering to himself. It seemed by his reaction that Hamlin’s injury was more severe than other football injuries.

As viewers were scrolling through social media, searching for answers, Hamlin was receiving ten minutes of CPR and the crowd was at a standstill. Finally, ESPN showed a replay of what happened. After taking a routine hit from an opponent, Hamlin stood up and seemed to be fine, but then immediately fell backwards. What confirmed the seriousness of this event was the other players’ reactions. Players from both teams, all across the field, were in tears, a rare scene for the NFL. Eventually an ambulance arrived and paramedics carried Hamlin away on a stretcher – fans were left shaken up. Hamlin was admitted in critical condition to the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati hospital, unconscious and needing a ventilator to help him breathe.

All football fans have seen or heard of injuries that have ended players’ careers. In fact, in this same stadium, just a few months prior, Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa experienced complications from a concussion during a game and was taken away on a stretcher. Fortunately he was released from the hospital later that night. Hamlin’s injury, however, was different. This was not just an injury that could end his professional football career; this was a matter of life and death. Naturally, the NFL suspended the game for the evening (and eventually canceled it altogether) as there was no way players would be able to continue after witnessing this trauma.

While one could argue that Hamlin’s severe injury brought a negative light onto the game of football, it also brought fans and players together in a positive way. People from all over the world donated more than eight million dollars to Hamlin’s charity, the Chasing M’s Foundation benefiting children in his community. Stadiums across the NFL lit up in red and blue, the colors of the Bills. Players and coaches wore shirts displaying the words “Love for Damar” along with his jersey number three. Bengals head coach, Zac Taylor, and his wife collected cards from fans and delivered them to Hamlin’s hospital room.

Thankfully, now one week after Hamlin was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, he is off the ventilator, talking, walking, and eating on his own, and was released from the hospital to return to Buffalo. His recovery has been described as “remarkable” by doctors treating him. He will still have to undergo a lot of medical tests to find out what happened as well as a lot of physical therapy to regain his strength. While some are already asking, doctors say it’s too early to know whether he will ever be able to return to football. Even though this traumatic event has created a major setback for Damar Hamlin, it has united a lot of people inside and outside the NFL community, giving hope to Hamlin, the Bills, and the rest of the league.