Medical Experts Explain Possible Causes of Damar Hamlin’s Cardiac Arrest

Bills Player Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after a hit and was administered CPR on the field before being transferred to an area hospital.

ABC 31 News Reporter

Keisha Swafford has the story on possible causes of his cardiac arrest.


Since Damar Hamlin collapsed immediately on the tackle play, Dr. Comilla Sasson explains what could have happened.

Vice President for Science & Innovation for Emergency Cardiovascular Care Dr. Comilla Sasson says, “There is something called a “commotio cordis” which is where, when someone has a direct blow to the chest, while it can happen just at the right time, so that sets the heart off into a fatal arrhythmia, meaning that their heart rhythm is no longer going to be able to profuse the brain or the other vital organs. So that’s one thing that could have happened. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a direct blow that is very hard. It just has to happen at the exact wrong time.”


Sports Physician and Family Medicine Physician Brent Smith says having an automated external defibrillator on-site saved Hamlin’s life.

“But having it in a timely manner available is lifesaving, as far as the time and we know how much that’s important. Every minute you delay in properly applying and using an AED in that situation is a 10 percent increase in your mortality.”


Smith says the medical team’s quick response to perform CPR helped him.

“What’s very important in that situation is recognizing the problem quickly because if you see a player get hit, your first thought isn’t, “Oh my Gosh, there’s something wrong with his heart. He’s injured, he’s got a concussion, there’s other things, so recognizing that as a problem early is important.”


Dr. Sasson says Hamlin’s cardiac arrest could have been genetic.

“The other thing that can happen oftentimes too, in athletes especially, is that they do have something called “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” so they may have an enlarged heart that may or may not have been recognized, and sometimes when those, especially those endurance athletes are, you know, exerting themselves, they can have their heart then go into another fatal arrhythmia as well.”


This tragic event can teach athletes a valuable lesson about mortality.

“A young man, in the prime of his life suffered a very serious event and all those around him who are athletes, and they are trained to think of themselves as invincible and live full speed and go full speed, they now forced to face the mortality of that situation.”


Local athletes can learn to take necessary precautions to stay safe on the field.

The American Heart Association urges everyone to learn CPR to protect athletes.