After Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati, paramedics and team doctors rushed to his aid and began administering CPR to keep his heart pumping while he remained unconscious.
The quick actions and simple first aid may have saved the 24-year-old’s life.
In the hours since his shocking collapse, searches for CPR and CPR-related topics skyrocketed, according to Google Trends. The shift in interest came as reports trickled in that paramedics used the life-saving measure on the field for as long as nine minutes.
Dr. Raed Bargout is a cardiologist at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital. Bargout said that the quick nature of the events gave him a level of concern as a medical professional.
“The thing that was really shocking is how fast he had the tackle and how fast he went down after that,” Bargout said. “It took like probably two seconds between the time he stood up and then went down and that sometimes can be telling regarding the etiology of his cardiac arrest.”
Hamlin abruptly collapsed early in the first quarter of Monday Night Football’s matchup between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. The second-year safety made a hard tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins with about 6:15 left in the game’s first quarter.
A statement from the Buffalo Bills said Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following the hit on Higgins. The team said that his heartbeat was “restored on the field” before he was transported to the hospital and sedated.
Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating suddenly and in an unexpected way, Bargout said. A healthy, unaffected heart pumps about 60 to 90 beats per minute, bringing nutrition and oxygen to vital organs like the brain, liver and kidneys. That flow of blood and oxygen is called perfusion.
Immediately after Hamlin went down, medical personnel rushed to his aid, even backing up an ambulance directly onto the field. Bargout said that those precious seconds after a heart stops beating is critical in supplying blood and oxygen to those vital organs and maximizing the chance of a healthy outcome for the person suffering from cardiac arrest.
“When the heart stops, there is no perfusion, no circulation happening, so you want to recognize cardiac arrest immediately and try to restore this perfusion as soon as possible,” Bargout said. “The faster you do that, the better the outcome is.”
But CPR can only do so much. In Hamlin’s case, paramedics utilized an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock his body to restore the rhythm of the heart.
AEDs can be found in many public locations, and their availability has only expanded through the years. While they may be intimidating, they are a crucial part of the cardiac arrest equation. The devices will even alert you if using one is or isn’t appropriate.
“The whole idea of doing CPR is to restore circulation,” Bargout said. “If the defibrillator does not recognize a shockable rhythm … then it will tell you to resume CPR.”
Health officials urge anyone and everyone to have a basic understanding of how to properly administer CPR.
Bargout described the life-saving first emergency procedure as “more important than to know how to change a car tire.”
He says there are many resources available and that knowledge in combination with quick action could save a life.
The American Red Cross offers CPR courses in-person and online, as well as step-by-step instructions for those simply looking for a refresher.
Classes only take a few hours and hands-on training can ensure that those administering CPR are performing “high-quality” CPR. Bargout says the average person, and even the occasional medical professional, have been known to perform “low-quality” CPR, i.e., not pushing hard enough or fast enough.
If you complete a training course and become CPR-certified, that certification will remain valid for two years.
The cost of those classes range from $25 to $50, and many employers offer the training for free. Bargout says you can’t put a price on a life.
“I wish everyone was certified to do CPR, because you never know when you’re going to need it,” Bargout said.