What to Know About Damar Hamlin’s Injury

The life-threatening injury to Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills during a Monday night game in Cincinnati against the Bengals resonated around the league and the world of sports.

Here’s what to know:

What happened?

In the first quarter of the game, 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 hospital in critical condition. The information on his condition was released by the team and was more candid than typical N.F.L. injury reports.

Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed after making a tackle and went into cardiac arrest.CreditCredit…Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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.”

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.

More on Damar Hamlin’s Collapse

  • N.F.L.’s Violent Spectacle: The appetite for football has never been higher, even as viewers look past the sport’s toll on players’ lives. Damar Hamlin’s collapse should force a reconsideration, our columnist writes.
  • Around the League: With no changes announced to the Week 18 schedule, N.F.L. teams prepared to return to practice as players and coaches are still reeling from Mr. Hamlin’s collapse.
  • ESPN’s Coverage: Within minutes of Mr. Hamlin’s collapse, the sports network transformed from being a broadcaster of a football game to being at the center of a major news event.

How is Hamlin now?

He remained in critical condition at the hospital. “They’re trying to get him to breathe on his own,” his uncle Dorrian Glenn told NFL Network on Tuesday.

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, about 200,000 people have combined to contribute more than $6 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.”

Where does the game stand?

The game was halted after nine minutes with the Bengals ahead, 7-3. The league has said the game would not resume this week; that leaves it with several options, none of them ideal.

It could shift the playoff schedule forward to get the remainder of the game in, call the game a tie, cancel it entirely, or award it to the Bengals, among other possibilities.

The game is important from a competitive perspective: It could have a significant impact on which team gets the A.F.C.’s No. 1 seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

The games scheduled for this weekend — the last week of the regular season — are for now moving forward as planned.

What has the reaction been?

Players from both teams were visibly upset in the immediate aftermath of the injury, some crying and others praying.

“The game is not important,” said J.J. Watt of the Cardinals on Twitter. “Damar Hamlin’s life is important. Please be OK. Please.”

Players returned to practice on Wednesday. Teams have been reminded about the league’s mental health and support resources.

Fans have also reacted with well wishes and concern about player injuries.

How is it affecting Buffalo?

It has been a tough year for the city, with a mass shooting at a supermarket in May and a deadly blizzard over the holidays. The Bills, who are 12-3, had been a bright spot.

“It has been the snowball that I’ve been hoping would end,” said Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County executive. “Karma owes us.”

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