Damar Hamlin Football Incident Explained: Love for Number Three


Damar Hamlin in recovery surrounded by family.

On the night of Jan. 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin, who was playing safety for the Buffalo Bills, was rushed to the hospital after he collapsed during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. There was 5:58 left in the game’s first quarter when The Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who was running the ball, collided with Hamlin and hit him in the chest with his helmet during a play. Hamlin dragged Higgens to the ground, although Hamlin seemed to be fine as he stood up but collapsed a few seconds later.

For 19 minutes medics attended to Hamlin on the field. Hamlin had to have CPR done and required an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). When he was in the ambulance, he was given oxygen and sent to the hospital. The rest of the game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals was postponed. The Buffalo Bills said that Hamlin suffered from cardiac arrest and his heartbeat was restored on the field. After he was taken to The University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further treatment. While he was in the hospital he was listed as in critical condition.

The next update on Hamlin’s condition was on Jan. 4 when the team tweeted that Hamlin was still in critical condition with signs of improvement. Since many people saw when Hamlin get injured, many people across the United States were worried for him and rallied outside of the hospital as well as donated millions of dollars to buy Christmas toys for children from his hometown which he requested.

Damar Hamlin being examined during the first half of the game.

Hamlin had suffered from a rare condition called Commotio Cordis, which happens when someone takes a direct hit to the chest. What happens is when someone takes this direct hit to the chest, the heart muscle pumps erratically, and the energy of the blow interferes with the electrical signals in the heart, creating a new beat known as ventricular fibrillation — a fast, erratic heartbeat that does not pump blood into the brain. When that happens, the heart needs to be shocked back into a regular rhythm. This is what Hamlin suffered from. 

Less than two weeks later, Hamlin seemed to be recovering and was transferred to a hospital in Buffalo after he was seen paying a visit to a team practice. When Hamlin was in critical condition all 32 NFL teams changed their Twitter profile pictures in a show of support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. In the game following Hamlin’s injury, all players on the team wore gold pendants that were shaped like a 3 to honor Hamlin. In the game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Bills scored on the first play, with running back Nyheim Hines posting a 96-yard kickoff return to give the Bills an early 7-0 lead. There were many people seen wearing shirts saying, “Love for Damar 3”, holding posters, or waving flags.

Currently, Hamlin is still recovering but is doing much better. Hamlin responded to an emotional reception from Bills fans, making a heart sign gesture with his hands in the last regular season game.