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  • Matthew Zeitz

Damar Hamlin: A Tragedy Turned Triumph

On the night of January 2nd, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the NFL world came to a screeching halt. The stop came in the middle of a primetime Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, two of the best teams in the entire NFL. The game had significant implications for playoff matchups, seeding, and many people’s fantasy football championships. Just minutes before, the Bengals went right down the field and scored a touchdown on their opening drive. Everyone watching knew they were in for a treat. But later in the first quarter, just as the game was about to get interesting, it all came to a stop, and suddenly the game didn’t matter anymore.

With 5:58 left in the first quarter, Bills safety Damar Hamlin was making a tackle when he took a blunt hit to his chest, causing him to collapse on the field shortly thereafter. At that moment, he went into cardiac arrest and had to be given CPR on the field for almost 10 minutes before he was taken into an ambulance and brought to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The game was postponed and later canceled, as the players on both sides were in no position to continue -- especially with the idea that one of their teammates or opponents was currently fighting for his life. It was later found out that what happened to him is an extremely rare condition called “commotio cordis” which only affects around 30 people in the US every year.

“Freak accident” might not be enough to describe the incident. Although it is extremely rare, because it occurred on national television in front of millions of people, it raised some understandable concerns about football as a sport, with many questioning if it is too dangerous to continue to be played. I decided to ask a few Edgemont students and teachers for their take on the whole situation, hoping to gauge their level of concern regarding these issues and compare them to the general populace view on the sport.

The first student I spoke with, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that the situation will change the way we perceive injuries in sports and will lead to fans pushing for new rule changes to enhance safety measures. However, he also believes that the NFL shouldn’t radically change the game.

Sophomore Zach Philips agrees that it is a difficult situation for the NFL in that it might need to make changes to their safety measures to satisfy the public, but they shouldn’t need to do because of the Hamlin incident considering its rarity.

Ethan Klein, another sophomore, feels the situation will be an eye-opener for both the NFL and its players. They understand now more than ever that it is a dangerous game and things like this could happen.

Mr. Coffin, a lifelong Steelers fan and ex-high school football player, cited his experience working at Jones Beach in emergency management while giving his comments on the situation. Having performed CPR on people in the past, he talked about how he could recognize the immediate actions of the coaches and medical crew responding to a cardiac arrest. He said everybody should be certified in CPR because it really does save lives. He added that football is a dangerous game and things like this have happened in the past and will continue to happen. He believes that the NFL will evolve as well to ensure the safety of its players.

The general public response to this accident was an outpouring of love and support toward Damar and his family. Hamlin created a GoFundMe page a few years ago to support a children’s toy drive, a cause he was very passionate about. After his accident, many decided to donate to his cause to show their support for him. The original goal of $2,500 was shattered, and his page has now amassed over 8.9 million dollars in donations.

However, along with all that support there also exists criticism. Sports media personality and talk show host Skip Bayless tweeted about how the NFL would be hard-pressed to cancel a game with such massive playoff implications. Everyone I interviewed agreed that his comments were insensitive and unprofessional, especially considering his large following and platform, citing that Hamlin’s life is much more important than the completion of a football game.

Fortunately, Hamlin proved able to make a recovery and has since been discharged from the hospital. Ms. Golub, a math teacher at EHS and a big Giants fan, said she was very happy with the way the situation was handled and its resolution. She said it was great to see the human side of professional sports.

Overall, what could have been a tragic event transformed into a massive outpouring of support and an important reminder of priorities in life.


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