BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In his first media availability on Tuesday since his collapse on Monday Night Football on January 2, Bills safety Damar Hamlin revealed that the condition that he suffered from is called commotio cordis.
What is commotio cordis?
Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, a professor of cardiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and a former volunteer president with the American Heart Association, joined News 4 at 5 on Tuesday to give some insight into the condition that led to Hamlin’s collapse.
Commotio cordis, in simple terms, is caused by blunt force trauma to the heart at a very specific time within the heartbeat. It will cause the heart to stop beating and collapse will occur within a few seconds, like what occurred with Hamlin after tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during the game.
Oftentimes, it can be seen in young athletes when they are hit with hard objects like baseballs and hockey pucks. Dr. Tomaselli said that it can happen to anyone and especially those who have a normal heart health.
“It takes a blow to the chest at exactly the right intensity, exactly the right location, exactly the right type and most importantly, at exactly the right time during the cardiac cycle,” Dr. Tomaselli said.
Dr. Tomaselli says that it is extremely important that when there is a freak accident and this occurs, that 911 is called immediately, CPR begins and to defibrillate the person who suffered the episode with an AED. It is the only way to save that person’s life.
Dr. Tomaselli said that he is happy to see the rise in awareness of learning CPR and other life support measures, especially in sports in recent months.
“We have a chain of survival that actually allows people who have out-of-hospital cardiac arrests to survive,” he said. “That chain of survival has two very important early links. One is recognizing that someone is down and has a problem. Number two, is learning basic cardiac life support.”
As part of his availability on Tuesday, Hamlin said that he will be making his return to the NFL, something that Dr. Tomaselli is not surprised by if he was cleared by doctors. Part of that consideration is that it is extremely rare for it to happen to someone multiple times.
“If his cardiac examination and testing looks to be normal, then no, I’m not surprised,” Dr. Tomaselli said. “Typically, this is the way things will happen with commotio cordis. It happens in people with normal hearts and it’s a very rare, very unusual event and people aren’t usually unlucky enough to have it happen repeatedly.”
He added, “his usual activities are unusual because he’s an NFL football player, but I see no reason to why he can’t return.”
You can watch the full segment above.
Later on Tuesday, Comilla Sasson with the American Heart Association joined News 4 at 10 to give additional insight on the condition. You can watch that interview below.
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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.