Initial speculation from doctors suggests that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was hit in the wrong place at the wrong time, triggering a cardiac arrest.
Hamlin collapsed during the the first quarter of the “Monday Night Football” game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin was given CPR on the field and later hospitalized in critical condition. The game was postponed.
In a video posted to YouTube, Dr. Mike Hansen, whose YouTube channel has more than 1 million followers, offered his theory about what took place in what he called a “blunt force chest injury.”
“I immediately put two and two together as to what was going on,” he said, after reviewing video of the incident.
“The NFL has never seen anything like this,” he said.
“When it gets to the point where it’s so severe where someone actually has a cardiac arrest, the first thing that comes to my mind is commodio cordis,” he said, referring to a condition caused by a blow to the chest that interrupts the rhythm of the heart.
He said Hamlin was able to rise from the tackle he made because the brain could temporarily function after blood flow has paused.
Doctors interviewed by The Washington Post agreed that Hamlin might have taken the blow during the tiny space of time when the heart’s electrical cycle is vulnerable to disruption from an external force.
The window of vulnerability is only 40 milliseconds long, which makes such injuries rare. Their most frequent appearance in sports is when baseball or hockey players are hit in the chest by the puck or a baseball, the Post reported.
Hansen offered one bit of hope for Hamlin’s recovery.
“After he was on the ground, he was actually moving his right arm, you see that on the replay, so it wasn’t like he didn’t have any brain function at all,” Hansen said.
Hansen noted that the reported use of an automated external defibrillator to treat Hamlin makes it seem possible that the blow triggered what Hansen called a “cardiac contusion … where now the electrical conduction system of the heart is all out of whack and now you need to reset that with an AED.”
Hansen called that “the most likely scenario of what happened.”
In a video posted by KABC-TV, Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER specialist, said the timing of the hit, as well as its force, was a factor, citing what he called the “R-on-T phenomenon.”
“This is a phenomenon that when the heart is going between its beats, as that heart is depolarizing and then repolarizing, if you have traumatic trauma to the chest, at a very specific moment as that heart is repolarizing itself, you can go into a lethal ventricular arrhythmia, and that’s what it looks like has happened,” Cardillo said, basing his opinion on what he saw from Hamlin standing after the play, and then collapsing.
He said the player’s future “will be dependent upon how long he was down and how long he was not getting oxygen.”
“We know that he’s a young, 24, healthy, conditioned athlete. He’s in the greatest possible situation to come back to a normal life at this point, but our prayers are with him to make sure he does recover like that,” Cardillo said.
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