Damar Hamlin before playing the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL game on September 8, 2021, in Inglewood, California.
A horror story unfolded earlier this month as millions watched Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapse after making a tackle midway through the first quarter of the team’s Monday night game against the Bengals. According to the on-site EMTs, Hamlin, 24, had suffered a cardiac arrest on the field following the hit. Fortunately, the medical personnel was able to restore Hamlin’s heartbeat due to their timely response. CPR was administered for several minutes before Hamlin received oxygen and was placed into an ambulance bound for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center some 16 minutes after he collapsed.
Following the incident, the NFL announced that the game would not resume for the rest of the week, and that the decision as to when the game would be finished was still up in the air. “Immediately, my player hat went on,” said Troy Vincent, former cornerback and current vice president of the NFL’s football operations. “How do you resume playing after you’ve seen such a traumatic event occur in front of you in real time?” Vincent wasn’t the only one who held this sentiment, however. Several NFL teams, including the Bengals, the Steelers, the Cardinals, and the Seahawks, took to social media to express their concerns about Hamlin sending their thoughts and prayers via Twitter. Even Hamlin’s alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, tweeted their support for the player; stating that Hamlin “is the best of us.” Outside the professional sports setting, people far and wide have also expressed solidarity with Hamlin. Just hours after Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, the fundraiser for children’s toys he had started registered over eight and a half million dollars; blowing the 2500 dollar goal out of the water.
Amidst all this support, Hamlin himself has seemed to stay in high spirits. On Saturday, Hamlin was back at the Bill’s facility just two weeks after the life-threatening incident. Hamlin expressed his gratitude to all the fans who showed their overwhelming support, taking to Twitter to deliver a message: “The love is felt, and extremely real. No matter race or religion everybody coming together in prayer… This will make me stronger on the road to recovery, keep praying for me!”
Despite the situation seeming to have worked out in the end, the scare still raises a major question: does the violence in football go too far? The number of injuries that occur on the field every day across America is sobering. After the NFL came under fire for the devastating effects of head trauma, the sport saw a drop in participation, with concerned parents pulling their kids out of youth programs and schools canceling their seasons due to too many injuries. Though some saw these as steps in the right direction, the NFL’s apparent lack of concern for their players left many people unsatisfied and wanting to see several changes in the organization’s policies. Many people believe that Hamlin’s injury will serve as a wake-up call to the NFL, that the sport can, in fact, kill. His near-death experience poses a question, not only to the NFL but to us all: at what point does a sport become too dangerous to justify?