Damar Hamlin’s Injury and how it impacted the NFL playoffs

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Jack Schroeder, Staff Reporter

During the NFL’s weekly Monday Night Football game on January 2, 2023, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle on Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Shortly after Damar got up from the turf, he collapsed back onto the field and suffered cardiac arrest at 6:59 PM MT. The Bills medical staff quickly rushed to Hamlin’s aid, administering CPR, as well as an automated external defibrillator, and regained a heartbeat after 9 minutes. Damar was then put in an ambulance and rushed to The University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he had to be resuscitated again, according to a statement made by his uncle, Dorian Glenn. After an hour of waiting and some members of the Bengals warming up to resume play, the NFL officially postponed the game at 8:11 PM MT, and would eventually cancel the game indefinitely. Hamlin was sedated on early Tuesday morning and put under a ventilator, as his lungs were not operating.

Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington has been recognized as the person who gave Hamlin the life-saving CPR.

On Thursday, January 5, it was announced that Damar was woken up from sedation, was neurologically proficient, and was able to move his hands and feet. Hamlin still needed a ventilator however, as his lungs had slightly improved, but not enough. Damar was able to communicate by nodding and shaking his head for yes and no answers, as well as writing short notes, with one of his first notes reading “Did we win?”, to which the doctors responded stating he had “won the game of life”. On January 6, it was reported that Damar had his breathing tube taken out, and was able to FaceTime his Buffalo teammates before their game against the Patriots, saying “Love you boys.” The Bills wore a patch on their jerseys in the following game that had Damar’s number 3 on it, and the team’s first play of that game was a 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Nyheim Hines. Damar was able to watch the game and was posting tweets in reaction to the game throughout its duration. 

On January 9, Hamlin was transferred to the Buffalo General Medical Center, where he underwent a series of tests. Two days later on January 11, Damar was released from the hospital and allowed to return home.

Damar’s Chasing M’s foundation has raised $8.7 million since his incident. He has recently announced plans to partner with the Giving Back Fund to help him coordinate where his newfound funds go.

After the NFL’s decision to cancel the game, many fans were interested as to how the game would affect playoff seeding and home-field advantage, especially Bengals fans as the Bills were going to be the higher seed regardless. The decision made the Cincinnati Bengals the official AFC North champions, but put their playoff advantages in jeopardy. The NFL’s resolution to these issues detailed these factors: If the Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18 (which they did not), the site of the game would be decided by a coin toss. If the Bengals beat the Ravens, the game would be played on the Bengals’ field (which is what ended up happening). If either the Bills or Bengals make it to the AFC Championship game as an away team, the game will be played at a neutral site, which has now been determined to be the Atlanta Falcons’ field. With the Bills (2nd Seed) and Bengals (3rd Seed) being below only one team in seeding, they will be playing a game against the Kansas City Chiefs (1st Seed) at a neutral site if either team makes it to the AFC Championship along with the Chiefs.

The Bills and Bengals have both since survived the Wild Card round of the playoffs and will be facing each other in the Divisional round this coming weekend. If the Chiefs, who did not have to play in the Wild Card round because of a bye week that they received for being the highest seed, beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, the winner of the Bills vs. Bengals game will play the Chiefs in Atlanta, Georgia.