CNN

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made “substantial improvement” in hospital after his midgame cardiac arrest on Monday, doctors said, and is now awake and moving his hands and feet.

Hamlin is able to communicate by shaking his head, nodding or writing brief notes, said Dr Timothy Pritts, who is part of the player’s medical team. Upon waking, Pritts said, Hamlin’s mind was still on the game as he scribbled his first question on a clipboard: “Did we win?”

“So we know it’s not just that the lights are on, we know he’s home. And it seems like all cylinders are firing in his brain,” said Pritts, who is vice-president. chair of clinical operations at the University of Cincinnati Health where Hamlin is being treated.

Still, the medical team have warned that many phases of Hamlin’s recovery are ahead. Hamlin – who had to be sedated and intubated after his collapse – is still critically ill and remains on a ventilator, Pritts said. Doctors did not say when he started to wake up.

The 24-year-old collapsed during the first quarter of the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday and was rushed off the field in an ambulance, stunning a packed stadium and leaving his teammates visibly emotional, crying and hugging each other.

The NFL announced Thursday that the game — originally postponed Monday night — has been canceled. The league is working on plans to honor Hamlin ahead of every game scheduled for this coming weekend, two people familiar with the matter told CNN’s Oliver Darcy.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell notified all clubs of his decision Thursday after contacting executives from the Bills, Bengals and NFL Players Association, according to a league statement.

“It’s been a really tough week,” Goodell said. “We continue to be focused on Damar Hamlin’s recovery and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family across the country. We are also extremely grateful for the incredible work of the medical staff and congratulations to each of them.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Hamlin made “a pretty remarkable recovery,” the medical team says: Although Hamlin remains in intensive care, he is showing “good neurological recovery” and is awake and holding his family’s hand in the hospital, Pritts said Thursday.
  • Tests to determine the cause are underway: “This marks a really good turning point in his continued care,” Pritts said, but “there are still many, many steps ahead of him.” Hamlin’s next big step will be to breathe on his own without a ventilator, said Dr. William Knight, director of emergency medicine. Tests are still ongoing to determine the cause of his cardiac arrest, Knight said.
  • Hamlin lost his pulse on the pitch: While surrounded by medical teams on the field, Hamlin lost his pulse and had to undergo CPR and defibrillation as fans and teammates watched, Knight said. He was then intubated in the ambulance and arrived at the hospital around 30 to 45 minutes after collapsing, the doctor added.
  • Bills are back to work: The team met on Wednesday and held its first full practice of the week on Thursday in preparation for hosting the New England Patriots on Sunday. The team received “progressive updates” from medical staff as well as Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head athletic coach Nate Breske who remained in Cincinnati, head coach Sean McDermott said. “I think the fact that we keep hearing good news about Damar, that keeps pushing us forward,” quarterback Josh Allen told reporters Thursday.
  • “People are going to be changed forever”: Allen said the players have had “very open, honest and deep discussions” since their teammate was hospitalized on Monday. “I think putting that helmet back on has been a very good thing for our team,” he said of the return to training, adding: “But I would be lying to you if I didn’t say some people are going to be changed forever after being in the field and witnessing that and feeling those emotions.

News of Hamlin’s awakening was met with a rush of messages of support and relief from NFL players. Since his collapse, fans have honored the player, donating more than $7 million to his charity fundraiser and making his jersey the top-selling athlete’s jersey at sportswear store Fanatics, a source said. company spokesperson.

Hamlin and Allen’s family also dismissed online criticism from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who collided with Hamlin moments before he collapsed. The family spokesperson said Higgins reached out and “provided support”.

“Hopefully he got some relief today,” Allen said of Higgins when speaking with reporters on Thursday. He added: “It’s a game of football, and I hope he doesn’t just stick to it, because there’s nothing else he could have done in this situation.”

Doctors and members of the Bills team repeatedly applauded the immediate action of medical personnel who rushed to Hamlin just seconds after he collapsed.

Bills offensive lineman Dion Dawkins tweeted Thursday that assistant athletics coach Denny Kellington performed CPR on Hamlin while he was lying on the court. Coach McDermott also praised the trainer on Thursday, saying he saved Hamlin’s life.

“As they say, practice pays off and it did in this case,” McDermott said at a post-practice press conference focusing on Hamlin. “But again, the context, for an assistant to end up in that position and needing to take the actions that they have taken and to step in and take charge like they have – and there had others on the pitch as well – is nothing short of amazing and (the) courage it took, you’re talking about a real leader, a real hero, who saved the Damar’s life.

In audio obtained by CNN of medical staff working on the fringes when Hamlin collapsed, staff can be heard calling for help with all hands, saying, “I don’t like the way he is fell” and “We’re going to need Everybody.”

NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills attributed the rapid medical response to a “60-minute meeting” held between medical teams and NFL officials before each game to identify the location of the medical equipment and nearby medical centers, and establish a chain of command in case of emergency, among others.

In its announcement of the official cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game which was suspended after Hamlin’s collapse, the NFL detailed parts of its decision-making, including that the outcome of the game would have no impact on the teams. qualified for the playoffs.

The Bills and Bengals have clinched playoff berths before, but are battling for higher seeds in the American Football Conference playoffs.

Deciding to play the game would also have forced the league to postpone the start of the playoffs by a week, the NFL statement explained, a decision that would affect all 14 qualifying clubs.

Finally, the league said making the decision before Week 18 still allows all clubs to know playoff possibilities before their final game of the regular season.

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