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Damar Hamlin wants to raise awareness for this rare cardiac condition

Damar Hamlin attends an event with lawmakers to introduce the Access to AEDs Act on March 29, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch
Getty Images
Damar Hamlin attends an event with lawmakers to introduce the Access to AEDs Act on March 29, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Who is he? Damar Hamlin is a 25-year-old NFL safety for the Buffalo Bills, and made headlines earlier this year for collapsing on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2nd.

  • Hamlin fell to the ground after colliding with an opposing player during that game, and didn't get back up. He was promptly resuscitated on the field and rushed to the hospital.   
  • Hamlin remained in critical condition for days, and was hospitalized until January 11th.  
  •  While he has thanked the public for their support since, he only announced the cause for his frightening health scare this week. 
  • His collapse garnered attention for multiple reasons; the NFL's speedy response has been credited with helping save Hamlin's life, and the incident was used by anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists as fodder against the COVID-19 shot.  

  • Want more health journalism? Listen to Consider This on how over-the-counter narcan could help save more lives

    What's the big deal? This week, Hamlin announced his clearance to return to the NFL in September, with a renewed sense of purpose: raising awareness for the cardiac condition that caused his collapse in the first place.

  • Hamlin attributed his collapse to commotio cordis, a rare cause of cardiac arrest, "that starts with a blow to the chest in a precise spot at just the wrong time in the heartbeat," according to the American Heart Association. 
  • After recovering and consulting with medical experts, he's been given a clear pass to return to the game. Now, he's focused on raising awareness, and shared his new goal: 
  • "Commotio cordis is the leading cause of death in youth athletes across all sports. So that's something that I personally will be taking a step in to make a change. Also, with that being said, all of the awareness around CPR and access to AEDs have been lowering that number as well."  
  • What are people saying now?

    On his feelings towards returning to the sport:

    My heart is still in it. My heart is still in the game, I love the game. It's something I want to prove to myself — not nobody else. I just want to show people that fear is a choice. You can keep going in something without having the answers and without knowing what's at the end of the tunnel. Or you might feel anxious, you might feel any type of way, but you keep putting that right foot in front of the left one and you keep going. I want to stand for that.

    On surviving this ordeal:

    "Not to sound cliché, but the wild moment is every day just being able to wake up and take deep breaths and live a peaceful life. To have a family, to have people around me that love me and care about me, and for those people to still have me in their lives. You know they almost lost me. I died on national TV in front of the whole world. So, I see it from all perspectives. For them to still have me around, and for me to still have them, it goes both ways. And I lost a bunch of people in my life, and I know a bunch of people who have lost people in their lives, and I know that feeling. So that right there is just the biggest blessing of it all. For me to still have my people, and for my people to still have me." 

    So, what now?

  • According to the NFL, Hamlin's foundation, Chasing M, will be raising awareness to CPR training and efforts to provide defibrillators to youth sports. 
  • Despite this past experience with playing football Hamlin says this on his return: "I've been beating statistics my whole life, so I like my chances here." 
  • Read more:

  • How Damar Hamlin's collapse fueled anti-vaccine conspiracy theories
  • Jalen Hurts signs a record 5-year, $255 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Damar Hamlin is cleared to play football, 4 months after his on-field cardiac arrest
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    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.