clinical NEWS

January 18, 2O23

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Football fans were enjoying an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2023 when one of the players, Damar Hamlin, collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Medical staff immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to restore his pulse. After 9 days of hospitalization, the 24-year-old athlete was discharged to continue rehabilitation at home.  

The cause of the cardiac arrest has not yet been publicly announced. SCA has many possible triggers like arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy and heart attack. Since it happened during a game and football is a full-contact sport, it might be from commotio cordis - the heart skipping a beat after getting hit in the chest.  

It is important to note that cardiac arrest is different from heart attack. Heart attack happens when the heart muscle is not receiving enough blood, triggering chest pain but the person will be conscious and breathing. The heart is still beating but unless the blockage is identified through coronary angiography and removed, a portion of the heart muscle can die. Cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating altogether. Without the pumping action, the brain and other organs do not receive blood so the person loses consciousness and collapses. A controlled electric shock via a defibrillator is needed to get the heart beating normally again.

SCA is fatal if the person does not receive treatment right away. In Hamlin’s case, the stadium had medical personnel on standby. However, more than 70% of cardiac arrest cases occur in places with no readily available health professionals. Which is why it is critical for regular people to learn the life-saving skills of administering CPR and using an AED. CPR, if performed immediately and in the right manner, can double the survival chance from SCA. With the widespread coverage of this incident, hopefully more people will be motivated to access their local resources on CPR-AED education and training.


1.     Understanding cardiac arrest and emergency response following Damar Hamlin’s collapse during Monday Night Football. (n.d.). American Heart Association.

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