The NFL hasn’t seen anything like it in recent days.

After Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed to hospital, Cincinnati Bengals fans embraced their Buffalo Bills counterparts at Paycor Stadium, men and women stormed into tears, while others prayed.

Hour by hour, day by day, emotion and concern for Hamlin’s health swelled like an ocean – with players and coaches from 32 teams, as well as NFL fans, eagerly awaiting any updates on the well-being of the Bills’ security.

After watching the chilling event unfold, Colts rookie safety Rodney Thomas II drove from Indianapolis to Cincinnati to see his friend Hamlin. Meanwhile, NFL fans held vigils outside the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where Hamlin was sedated and intubated in intensive care.

After he arrived, Thomas held his friend’s hand and talked to him.

“I know he could hear me,” said Thomas of Hamlin, whom he met at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, where the two were teammates and became close friends.

“Even if he couldn’t hear me, it didn’t matter. I said what I had to say.

Michael Addis, a professor in the psychology department at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, told CNN Sports that what we have witnessed in recent days shows the evolution of sports, a development he attributes to the evolution visions of masculinity where men are allowed to “experience emotional vulnerability.

“I think it’s a sign that we’re better prepared than we were a quarter of a century ago to recognize emotional and physical health issues in men because, of course, all these sorts of traditional laws of masculinity teach us to hide that.” said Addis, who is an expert on male depression.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen told reporters Thursday that the Buffalo players had supported each other emotionally.

“We had very open, honest and deep discussions,” Allen said. “Some amazing, it sounds weird, but some kiss as men, just hugging someone and just leaning into them. There’s been a lot going around and you need it every moment, you really need it.

“I think the fact that we keep hearing good news about Damar, that keeps us going.” Allen added, referring to Hamlin’s “substantial improvement” in the hospital.

Hamlin is able to communicate by shaking his head, nodding or writing brief notes, said Dr. Timothy Pritts of the University of Cincinnati Health, who is part of the player’s medical team.

On Friday, the Bills announced that Hamlin’s breathing tube was removed overnight and he attended their team meeting via FaceTime to speak to players and coaches. He had a simple message: “I love you boys.”

Bills secures Hamlin before the start of a preseason game on Saturday August 28, 2021.

The NFL announced Thursday that the game between the Bills and the Bengals has been called off, although the final week of the regular season begins on Saturday as the playoff landscape becomes clearer.

However, returning to action so quickly will be a big ask for players after such a “traumatic event”, according to Addis.

“For some people, it’s all about getting back to business. And it’s a healthy distraction from what they’re going through,” Addis said. “For the others, there’s no way they’re going back to business so soon.”

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said during the week that a return to action on Sunday would most likely be felt differently by his teammates.

“I’m sure if you poll the locker room there will be mixed votes on this,” Burrow told reporters on Wednesday.

“Personally, I think playing is going to be tough, but there are people who want to play too, and people who don’t. Personally, I probably want to play,” Burrow added.

“I think getting back to normal as quickly as possible is personally how I deal with this stuff. But like I said, everyone has a different way of dealing with this.

Bengals quarterback Burrow speaks with the media on Wednesday, January 4.

Bills Allen quarterback said that while “people are going to be changed forever” from what happened on Monday, he thinks “putting that helmet back on was a really good thing for our team and just to go through this process.”

However, returning to action may be more difficult for some players following Hamlin’s mid-game cardiac arrest, according to Addis, not least because they may have experienced their first “existential awakening to their own mortality”. .

“These players are used to seeing broken bones. They’re used to concussion protocols,” Addis said.

“So I think for all the players involved, as well as potentially the fans, this is a time when the risk of triggering traumatic reactions is very real.

“For some of these players, based on their own life experiences, it will bring back some of those feelings.”

In recent years, the sports world has become more aware of the mental health of athletes, but as the NFL season draws to a close, Addis wonders if players will have the time and space to process their emotions.

“Whether this meets the economic demands of the NFL and the demands of the fans remains to be seen,” Addis said.

“I’m really curious to see how this all pans out, because I don’t think the institution of the sport is ready to be as flexible on this as the players might need to be.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo to teams on Tuesday that player engagement managers and team clinicians at all clubs have received information about mental health and support resources for players. players and staff.

Allen reacts to Hamlin's collapse in the first quarter of the game against the Bengals.

Less than 10 seconds after collapsing, Hamlin was receiving life-saving medical treatment.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that assistant athletic coach Denny Kellington was the person who performed CPR on the field and saved Hamlin’s life.

This season, the NFL has been widely criticized for its handling of player concussions, but medical staff’s immediate response to Hamlin’s collapse has been widely praised.

This willingness to act quickly in the face of an emergency is the result of long hours of planning and preparation, according to Dr. Jonathan A. Drezner, director of the University of Washington Sports Cardiology Medicine Center and team physician for the Seattle Seahawks.

Medical staff at NFL teams have a “written emergency action plan,” including sudden cardiac arrest, head and neck trauma, and abdominal or chest trauma, according to Drezner, who explained those plans are practiced. twice before the start of the season – once at their training center and once at the stadium which hosts the matches.

Then, during a “pre-match medical time-out”, the two medical teams, including additional doctors, airway management doctors and neurotrauma consultants, meet with the officials an hour before kick-off. sending NFL games “to make sure everyone is on the same page to do what needs to happen in an emergency,” Drezner said.

“So it’s kind of planning for the ‘what if’s. And so I think in the NFL we actually put a pretty strong emphasis on preparation,” the team doctor added. of the Seahawks.

“I think that was evidenced in the response Damar Hamlin received from the medical team, both the Buffalo Bills and the auxiliary help available in Cincinnati. And hopefully if there is a medical emergency at any NFL game, such a response can be replicated,” Drezner said.

Bills players gather and pray after Hamlin collapses on the field.

Before the start of the NFL season, players undergo annual EKGs in an effort to identify pre-existing heart conditions, according to Drezner.

The teams are also looking for the players’ family history of heart disease or cardiac arrest and, if found, will investigate further.

Drezner says he doesn’t think “the risk factors for cardiac arrest in the NFL are any different than any other sport.”

“Most sudden cardiac arrests in young competitive athletes stem from pre-existing heart disease. And again, these are the types of heart disease you are looking for through screening, but no screening is perfect.

In the aftermath of Hamlin’s collapse, the entire league showed their support for safety and the Bills, changing their social media profile pictures to say “Pray for Damar” and skylines across the country turned blue for Hamlin.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane expressed his gratitude for the support of the entire NFL community over the past week, calling it a “family.”

“This week every team changed their logo on their social media page to pray for Damar, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” Beane told reporters.

“And, yes, we are going to fight, but in the end, life is battle number one, and to see this unity of players, coaches, general managers, owners, fans is unprecedented. But I think it’s a good light, it sheds a great light on the NFL. The NFL is truly a family.

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