Damar Hamlin Injury A Tragic Reminder of Detroit Football History
As most football fans know, Damar Hamlin, a second-year safety for the Buffalo Bills out of Pittsburgh, suffered a devastating injury in Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In what appeared to be a routine football play, Bengals standout wide receiver Tee Higgins lowered his shoulder as Hamlin wrapped up for a tackle. The Bills' defensive back completed the play, landed on top of Higgins and quickly rose to his feet. As Hamlin stood upright, he immediately fell backward onto the turf at Paycor Stadium.
Trainers and stadium first responders quickly rushed to Hamlin and reportedly administered CPR and AED strategies to resuscitate the 24-year-old. Hamlin was promptly transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center via ambulance.
The Bills later released a statement reporting that Hamlin had suffered a cardiac arrest. As of this writing, Hamlin remains sedated in the hospital in critical condition.
The presumed diagnosis from many medical minds that have been featured on ESPN and other outlets since the incident appears to be commotio cordis, which is described to result when, via NPR, "a blunt blow to the chest, delivered at a specific point in the cardiac cycle, induces a dangerous, life-threatening heart arrhythmia or cardiac arrest."
To the average viewer, it would be initially surprising that this type of injury doesn't happen more often in what is arguably the world's most violent team sport. However, commotio cordis is much more common in sports such as baseball, boxing/combat sports, and hockey, where small projectile-like objects can strike the chest in a smaller surface area. In fact, in 1998, St. Louis Blues player, and eventual Hall of Famer, Chris Pronger suffered the same injury after a slap shot hit him in the chest in a match against the Detroit Red Wings.
(This link leads to the tweet from which I'm citing. The video in the tweet is just as traumatic as Hamlin's injury, which I won't be linking to in this story out of respect for him as he is still in critical condition whereas Pronger was able to continue his career. As such, viewer's discretion is advised.)
That, of course, is not Detroit's only link to this tragic development. As Hamlin's haunting situation unfolded on national television, seasoned Detroit football fans were reminded of a grim moment in Lions' history.
On October 24, 1971, the Detroit Lions were playing the Chicago Bears, just as they do twice a year to this day, at Tigers Stadium.
Chuck Hughes, a reserve wide receiver for the Lions, caught a 32-yard pass as the Lions drove the field hoping to overcome a 28-23 deficit within the final two minutes of the contest. He was tackled in a sandwich between Bob Jeter and Gary Lyle. It was a hard hit, par for the course of the era in which they played, but Hughes returned to the Lions huddle to complete the comeback.
Three plays later, Hughes jogged back to his huddle just as he had before. Tragically, as he crossed the Bears' 20-yard line in front of Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, Hughes, who was just 28-years-old, clutched his chest and fell forward to the grass field beneath him.
Medical personnel attended to Hughes immediately after Butkus began frantically calling to the sidelines to assist the young man from Texas. They administered CPR on the field to no avail. Though Chuck Hughes wasn't pronounced dead until nearly an hour after the game's conclusion, he did, in all practicality, die on the field of play.
It was later revealed that Hughes' heart attack was the result of blood clots in his arteries, one of which was 75% clogged. Hughes' family had a history of underlying heart problems.
In the NFL's 102 years of play, Hughes remains the only player to ever die during a game. As most signs for Hamlin appear positive, and with respect to Hughes and his survivors, the entire sports world is hoping that remains the case.
If you feel inclined to donate, Damar Hamlin's charity organization, "The Chasing M's Foundation Community Toy Drive," is accepting donations, which you can access below. At the time of this writing, roughly 24 hours after his injury, more than $5 million was raised for Hamlin's charity.