The biggest game of the NFL season gave way Monday night to the most terrifying nationally televised moment in league history when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin faced a life-or-death emergency on the field.
Hamlin tackled Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, rose to his feet, adjusted his facemask and collapsed onto his back as medical personnel rushed onto the field to administer CPR. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he was in critical condition, according to the NFL, and put to “sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat,” after his vital signs were stabilized, according to his friend and marketing rep Jordon Rooney of Jaster Athletes.
The rest of this NFL season — and maybe the future of football — changed in that moment. A Bills-Bengals game rich with playoff implications was suspended as coaches appeared to take matters into their own hands and pull their teams off the field to go back to the locker room because players were either shocked or in tears. It is unclear when those teams — or any players around the NFL — will take the field again.
Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes died of cardiac arrest on Oct. 23, 1971 after collapsing on the field only a few plays after he was tackled in a game against Chicago. The teams continued to play after he was carried off on a stretcher, treated in the tunnel of Tiger Stadium and taken to a local hospital.
More than 50 years of perspective and medical advancements made it common sense that Monday’s game had to be postponed, though it still took the NFL an hour to make the right call after first planning to resume following a five-minute warm-up period once the ambulance rolled away. As hundreds of players around the NFL offered prayers for Hamlin — both before and after the Bills; his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh; his agents and friends asked for them — it was impossible not to wonder what changes will be made next to keep players safer in the most dangerous sport.
The strangest common sight in any football practice is when a player with a “routine” injury lies on the ground receiving attention from trainers and the ball is moved to a different part of the field and drills resume. Perhaps that normalizing of injuries needs to stop.
There were four traumatic injury (direct) fatalities that occurred in football in 2021, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. All happened in high school football (three games and one practice) and all were related to brain injury, per the data collected.
In light of Monday’s traumatic events, Post Sports+ decided that our regularly planned newsletter — one that examined Super Bowl contenders, former head coaches trying to get back into the league and the draft prospects of college quarterbacks — needed to be put on hold for all focus to properly remain on Hamlin’s condition.
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