By Terrie Johnson | UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern
Figure 1 Photo Credit: Damar Hamlin Instagram Account @d.ham3 (2023).
Damar Hamlin is a name that might not have been known to many before January 02, 2023. However, now, Hamlin’s name is associated with one of the biggest news stories of 2023 when the nation waited on a health update and prayed for a positive outcome given his health condition. According to Devon Markham of News Nation, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills collapsed on the field mid-game after a defensive tackle. Following the play, Hamlin lost consciousness and received CPR from medical personnel for nine minutes. Most notably, Journalist Devon Markham shares assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington used a defibrillator during the process and successfully resuscitated Hamlin as he lay lifeless on the field. He was immediately put into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
For days afterwards, fans held vigils waiting for updates. Hamlin transitioned from relying on a breathing tube to 100% breathing on his own and showing significant neurological recovery. He also began speaking and acknowledging teammates, family, and friends. Hamlin was eventually released from the hospital in Cincinnati, OH and transported to his home in Buffalo, NY.
As many were relieved to hear of Mr. Hamlin’s progress, the circumstances of his history raised questions about the severity of hits taken by NFL players. A review of history shows there have been numerous players to experience similar life-threatening injuries. Markham recorded the experience of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier in December of 2017, when he suffered a spinal contusion that left him temporarily paralyzed. In December of 2011, Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox took a major hit that ended his career. Also, September 2007, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was temporarily paralyzed after a hit which also ended his career.
Conversations have taken place about the disability pay received by players. Several people feel more of their contract should be paid out if they experience a life-threatening encounter. Fans may empathize with the players’ expending health and money, far exceeding the contributions made by the league to the players. As such, it is important for the public to advocate for change. NFL policies and perhaps federal legislations may be necessary to hold the NFL more responsible for the health problems of the current and former players. Specifically, the government should introduce a health policy to the NFL that regulates their assessment and treatment of player injuries. Also, part of the millions made by the league should be used to advocate for a health fund used for players with a diversity of NFL related injuries.
Furthermore, steps should be taken to reduce the power the league has over medical professionals, determinations, and overall outcomes. While fans enjoy the fun and excitement players provide, they must also fight to protect their favorite players from various health implications and unfair outcomes. Lastly, fans of the league can flood the #NFL on all social media platforms to express their grievances, concerns, and suggestions. This would increase awareness that the public has expectations that should be addressed along with the players.
Hamlin, Damar. (2023). Damar Hamlin 3 on Instagram “GAMETIME @buffalobills
LFG!!!!!!”. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/d.ham3/?hl=en
Markham, Devan. (2023). The most notable life-threatening injuries in the NFL. News Nation. https://www.newsnationnow.com/us-news/sports/nfl-notable-life-threatening-injuries/