‘Very rare – perfect storm’: NFL star Dahma Hamlin’s on-field crash, cardiologist U.S. News

Tackles are harmless. He straightened up after the impact and collapsed seconds later. So what happened to Dharma Hamlin?

The American football star, and a role model to millions, remains in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital.

The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills player received about 10 minutes of CPR He collided with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during Monday night’s incident.

As we wait for an update from the doctors who treated him, the medical world is coalescing around a condition called arrhythmia.

“It’s very rare. It takes the perfect storm,” Khaklid Aljabri, a cardiologist in Washington, told me.

“This condition can lead to sudden cardiac death due to a high-impact, blunt blow to the chest in front of the heart at the right moment — a very small window in the heart rhythm cycle,” he said.

The window in which this happens is surprisingly small, only 20 milliseconds.

Chart illustrates NFL star Damar Hamlin's possible conditions for Max Stone's work

Our hearts beat to a specific rhythm. At the end of each beat there is a wave called a T wave. In layman’s terms, it’s that moment when the heart resets before the next beat.

If the chest hits the heart hard enough as the T wave moves up, it can break the beat and make the heart flutter.

“Normally, the heart contracts forcefully and rhythmically and pumps blood to the brain and various body organs. With a flutter, the heart quiveres without actually pumping blood.

“For a few seconds, no blood reaches the brain, usually between 6 and 8 seconds, and then within 10 to 15 seconds, complete circulation ceases,” Mr Aljabri said.

“This may explain why Hamlin was able to stand up briefly before going down again.”

Cardiologist Khaklid Aljabri
Khaklid Aljabri

Doctors will now run a raft of tests to see if other factors may have contributed to the event.

“If I were the attending physician, I would still run a battery of tests to make sure we’re not missing anything else right now. This includes checking for pre-existing structural heart disease,” Mr Aljabri said.

“Professional athletes are being actively screened for structural heart disease. So if he had a congenital condition, I would expect him to be diagnosed by now.”

(L to R) Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin goes down after tackling Cincinnati Tigers wide receiver Tee Higgins.Image: Joseph Maiorana - USA TODAY Sports
Damar Hamlin (left) remains in critical condition after a tackle.Image: Joseph Maiorana – USA TODAY Sports

COVID vaccine theory

He also dismissed theories that the incident might have something to do with a coronavirus vaccine.

“Right now, there’s talk of him possibly having some kind of asymptomatic subclinical myocarditis, which is associated with Coronavirus Vaccines,” he said.

“That would be the bottom of my differential diagnosis.”

Mr Aljabri added: “We witnessed direct, blunt trauma to the chest, loss of consciousness within seconds, confirmed shock rhythm as he needed to be shocked with a defibrillator. All this, plus, hopefully without any Existing structural disease will most likely diagnose a concussion and be confirmed.”

Hamlin’s recovery will depend on how long his body is starved of oxygenated blood. Doctors opted to heal where he had fallen for 10 minutes before moving him. His heart rebooted during this time.

Please learn CPR

“We’ve seen firsthand what rapid CPR and defibrillation can do,” Mr Aljabri said.

“So, if you can get training in basic life support or advanced cardiac life support, go for it.

“This can happen anywhere: gyms, malls and stadiums are increasingly equipped with very easy-to-use defibrillators.

“And you never know when you might save someone’s life.”

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