CNN

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is in critical condition after the 24-year-old suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field during the first quarter of Monday night’s game in Cincinnati, his official said. team, a stunning moment that left the players crying, praying and hugging as their teammate was taken away by ambulance.

Hamlin fell to his back moments after getting up from an open-field tackle by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. We still don’t know what caused the cardiac arrest.

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“His heart rhythm was restored in the field and he was transferred to the (University of Cincinnati) Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition,” the officials said. bills in a tweet early Tuesday.

Hamlin’s collapse left the players distraught – in tears, kneeling with their arms around each other before heading back to their dressing rooms. The match was suspended with almost 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter and was later officially postponed.

Within 10 seconds of Hamlin’s collapse, the Bills team coaches were processing him. An ambulance was on the ground within five minutes, footage shows, and he received CPR, according to an ESPN broadcast. “Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the ground from an independent medical team and personnel and local paramedics. He was then transported to a local hospital where he is in critical condition,” the NFL said in a statement.

Since then, support for Hamlin – a Pennsylvania native who has played every game this season – has poured in from fans and other professional athletes, from the NFL’s Russell Wilson and JJ Watt to NBA star LeBron James. A Christmas toy fundraiser, Hamlin, launched in 2020, quickly raised more than $3 million.

Hamlin’s meltdown comes as the NFL remains under intense scrutiny for how it protects participants in an inherently violent game. Changes over the past decade include pre-game medical evaluations of players, as well as on-field and post-game evaluations of those involved in hard knocks, the league said. The NFL’s protocols for concussions – injuries related to brain disease later in life – have drawn criticism this season after a quarterback suffered a heavy blow in a game just four days after being injured. hit his head on the grass during a game.

The eye-popping play involving Hamlin happened around 8:55 p.m. ET, at the start of what was initially seen as a major late-season clash between two AFC stalwarts – the Bills at 12-3 and the Bengals at 11 -4 – trying to stay in contention. for the conference’s highest seeding in the upcoming NFL playoffs.

With the Bengals up 7-3, Higgins caught a short pass into Bengals territory and ran a few yards near midfield, where Hamlin met him.

Higgins dropped his right shoulder and slammed into the chest of Hamlin, whose arms were spread wide in anticipation of a tackle. Hamlin, now falling back, managed to wrap his arms around Higgins’ shoulders and neck and knock Higgins to the ground with him.

Hamlin stood up and appeared to adjust his face mask, then fell backwards shortly after. A referee whistled for the clock to stop with 5:58 left in the quarter, and Bills staff rushed to the motionless player.

Soon, three teammates removed their helmets and knelt as Hamlin remained motionless. Minutes later, after two ESPN commercial breaks, most players from both teams were on the field in concern, including Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, shown with a tear-streaked face.

Hamlin collides with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins moments before he collapses.

The Bills players and staff eventually gathered in a circle, kneeling on the field in prayer as an ambulance left the field with Hamlin.

“After Hamlin was taken by ambulance… some players just sat watching the pitch; the other players were kissing. Other guys were openly crying,” ESPN’s Lisa Salters said during the live broadcast.

At 9:16 p.m., after the teams’ head coaches spoke to each other on the field surrounded by game officials, Bills coach Sean McDermott waved his team back to their locker room, and the crowd was informed that the match would be on a temporary basis. suspended. The crowd cheered as the players retreated into the tunnel.

The league announced after 10 p.m. ET that the game was postponed.

After its collapse on Monday, neither coaches nor team players asked to continue playing, said NFL executive vice president of operations Troy Vincent, who played in the league for more than a decade. , during a press call. The NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to postpone the game, according to the NFL statement.

“I’ve never seen anything like it since playing,” Vincent said. “So immediately my player cap continued. How do you get back into the game after seeing such a traumatic event happen in front of you in real time? »

Damar Hamlin is seen in September after a game in New York.

Some of Hamlin’s teammates have decided to stay in Cincinnati while the rest of the team returns Tuesday morning to Buffalo, Vincent said. Bills wide receiver Diggs arrived at the hospital where Hamlin was being treated late Monday night, the ESPN broadcast showed.

CNN has reached out to the Bills for comment.

Hamlin joined the Bills in 2021 as a sixth-round pick after playing for the University of Pittsburgh in the 2016-20 seasons. He was dressed in a red shirt — sitting out games while still on the team — in 2016 due to injury, according to his Pittsburgh Panthers player bio. He also missed time due to injuries in 2017 and 2019, the NFL site added.

Overwhelming support for him was flooded in on Monday night from fans and players across the sports world. The NFL Players Association tweeted On Monday evening, the organization and “everyone in our community are praying for Damar Hamlin.”

“We have been in contact with players from the Bills and Bengals, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters right now is Damar’s health and well-being,” the players’ association said.

Los Angeles Lakers basketball player James applauded the decision to postpone the game after the medical emergency.

“It’s definitely the right call,” he said after the Lakers game against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, adding, “Player safety in any sport is always the most important thing. That was one thing. terrible to see.

“My thoughts and awesome prayers go out to heaven for this kid’s family, for him, for this NFL brotherhood and for everyone in the NFL family,” James said.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) stands on the field as Hamlin is treated.

Well wishes and prayers were sent by several star athletes including Denver Broncos quarterback Wilson, Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and free agent Odell Beckham Jr.

Watt, a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, tweeted: “The game is not important. Damar Hamlin’s life is important. Please agree. Please.”

Within hours of Hamlin’s collapse, the Christmas fundraiser he started raised more than $3 million as it was inundated with donations from supporters in support of his recovery.

The player created the will to raise money to buy toys for children in a community in Philadelphia, writing at the time: “As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget to where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to have a positive impact on the community that raised me.

Within an hour of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, the fundraiser had raised approximately $70,000 and less than 4,000 donations. But in just five hours, the GoFundMe skyrocketed to more than $3 million raised from nearly 120,000 donations, some as high as $5,000 each.

Hamlin continued his annual toy drive tradition this year in Buffalo, signing autographs and jerseys for kids who stopped by.

“(It’s) something I’ve always been into, just giving back,” he told CNN affiliate WKBW in December, adding, “For three years I’ve been collecting toys, so being able to expand it to Buffalo now is just something I love to do.



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