By Nadia Kounang, Ben Morse and John Sinnott, CNN
Just over a month after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after making a tackle in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills safety has received an optimistic prognosis on his playing future from the NFL players union doctor.
“I guarantee you that Damar Hamlin will play professional football again,” Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Association, said on SiriusXM Doctor Radio’s “Heart to Heart” program on Wednesday.
Hamlin collapsed after making a tackle in the first quarter of the game against the Bengals on January 2.
Doctors and trainers administered CPR and used a defibrillator on the field to resuscitate Hamlin before he was taken out of the stadium in an ambulance, leaving players, coaches, fans and the TV audience in shock.
Medical officials said he went into cardiac arrest, meaning his heart abruptly stopped beating. The game was postponed and ultimately canceled.
Hamlin was admitted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center before being transferred to a Buffalo medical center on January 9 and released on January 11. The cause of his collapse still has not been determined.
Subsequently Hamlin has made remarkable progress, and he was discharged from a Buffalo medical center on January 11.
Hamlin was present at the Bills’ divisional round match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 22, in which the Bills lost 27-10.
Earlier this month, Hamlin launched a campaign, in partnership with the American Heart Association, to increase CPR awareness and education.
CNN Sports anchor and former Bills player Coy Wire said the league’s ability to act quickly to administer life-saving CPR to Hamlin is the biggest positive to take away from this NFL season.
“Outside of the highlight reel players, outside of the comebacks we saw, the parity and the competition that brings excitement — 50% of the playoff teams this year were new to the playoffs — aside from that, perhaps the league’s greatest achievement this year was bringing to light the importance of CPR preparedness,” Wire said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he was proud of the league and team preparations ahead of the “Monday Night Football” game in Buffalo when Hamlin went into cardiac arrest.
“Our players are getting the best care anywhere,” said Goodell at his annual Super Bowl media conference on Wednesday.
“The work that they [health personnel] have invested in by bringing in these great professionals, by bringing in the best of the best did contribute to saving a young man’s life. And I’m incredibly proud of that.”
Hamlin was honored on Wednesday as he won the 2023 NFL Players Association Alan Page Community Award.
“I just want to say, ‘thank you’ and just thank God for being here and thank the other guys who was nominated for the award as well who did the work in their community,” Hamlin said.
“Giving back to my community has always been a big part of who I am. Thankful to my father who is right here behind me. Growing up just watching him do community days in our community and I just always waiting on my time when it came.
“I plan to never take this position for granted and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community where I come from and also community across the world,” Hamlin added.
The award “recognizes one player who demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team’s city and communities across the country,” according to the NFLPA.
Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation community toy drive has raised over $9 million as of Saturday.
During his media conference, Goodell said total injuries suffered this past season were down by 6% but the league saw an 18% increase in concussions during the 2022 regular season.
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills noted that there were 149 concussions — up from 126 last season — according to the injury data released by the NFL.
Goodell attributed the increase to the league’s “definition of concussions,” which changed during the season.
“We had more evaluations — that’s going lead to more recorded concussions,” said Goodell. “We don’t want concussions to occur, we want to prevent them and we want to treat them, but we are not afraid of having them be diagnosed.”
Goodell added: “We encourage players and coaches and everyone else to come forward when they have symptoms so we can deal with those medically and make sure that they are handled professionally.”
The NFL has been under renewed scrutiny over the issue of concussions this season, beginning on September 25 when Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured during play but was allowed to return to the field.
One of the biggest concerns about repeated blows to the head and concussions is their association with a deadly brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The NFL’s current concussion protocol is triggered if a player receives a blow to the head and exhibits or reports symptoms or signs suggestive of a concussion or stinger — a nerve pinch injury — or key health or athletic personnel initiates the protocol.
The player is removed to the sideline or stabilized on the field and required to undergo testing.
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