Thank you, Katie Thom, Region SVP, Development and Community Health, from the
American Heart Association, for this information!
Like many of you I was watching last night’s NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo
Bills. Late in the first quarter, 24-year-old, Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a cardiac
arrest and collapsed after making a tackle. Medical staff rushed on the field and began performing CPR
on Damar. EMS arrived and they continued performing CPR and Damar was transported to UC-Health, a
Level-1 trauma center. The latest news reports indicate that Damar is in critical condition.
While our prayers go out to Damar Hamlin, his family and all Bills fans, I thought you may want to be
prepared with additional information on CPR, cardiac arrest, and Commotio cordis, which is a lethal
disruption of heart rhythm that occurs as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart at a
critical time during the cycle of a heartbeat. Please see the information below.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. The heart stops
beating properly. The heart’s pumping function is “arrested,” or stopped. In cardiac arrest,
death can result quickly if proper steps aren’t taken immediately. Cardiac arrest may be
reversed if CPR is performed and a defibrillator shocks the heart and restores a normal heart
rhythm within a few minutes.
It can come on suddenly or in the wake of other symptoms. Cardiac arrest is often fatal if
appropriate steps aren’t taken immediately. More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside a
hospital in the U.S. each year.
What are the causes of cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest may be caused by almost any known heart condition.
Most cardiac arrests occur when a diseased heart’s electrical system malfunctions. This
malfunction causes an abnormal heart rhythm such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular
fibrillation. Some cardiac arrests are also caused by extreme slowing of the heart’s rhythm
Irregular heartbeats such as these are life threatening.
When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving CPR from
someone nearby. According to the American Heart Association, about 90 percent of people
who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can
double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. Yet, bystanders only perform CPR
46% of the time.
While medical staff on site rushed to Hamilin on the field, for the general public the two steps of
Hands-Only CPR are to call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Use a familiar
song to help you keep up the pace of 100-120 beats per minute. Watch our Hands-Only CPR
Is a heart attack the same as cardiac arrest?
No. The term “heart attack” is often mistakenly used to describe cardiac arrest. While a heart
attack may cause cardiac arrest, the two aren't the same.
Download our Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack infographic.
Another emergency where CPR and/or AED's might be used is Commotio cordis, or the lethal
disruption of heart rhythm that occurs as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart
at a critical time during the cycle of a heartbeat. While rare, this is a condition that could affect
anyone playing a contact sport. Commotio cordis occurs mostly in boys and young men (average
age 15), usually during sports, often despite a chest protector. Being less developed, the thorax of
an adolescent is likely more prone to this injury given the circumstances.
Automated external defibrillators have helped increase the survival rate to 35%. Defibrillation
must be started as soon as possible (within 3 minutes) for maximal benefit. Commotio cordis is
the leading cause of fatalities in youth baseball in the US, with two to three deaths per year. It has been recommended that "communities and school districts reexamine the need for
accessible automatic defibrillators and cardiopulmonary resuscitation-trained coaches at
organized sporting events for children."
Source: Commotio cordis: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and
American College of Cardiology. Circulation.
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This is a heart-breaking situation, and we hope and pray for the best health outcomes for Damar Hamlin.