How NFL player Damar Hamlin overcame the odds: Health experts weigh in

When Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after being tackled during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month, his teammates, fans and millions of supporters watched and waited anxiously as he was cared for on the field. Was going and they spent many indecisions. Days in intensive care.

According to the CDC, about 2,000 people under the age of 25 die each year due to sudden cardiac arrest. Hamlin’s injury has renewed conversation around the country about the importance of certified athletic trainers and defibrillators as young athletes practice and compete.

A panel of medical and rehabilitation experts from the College of Health Professions and Sciences weighs in on what happened, what physical and mental recovery might look like, and how to protect athletes’ heart health.

It appears that Hamlin experienced what is known as commotio cordis. What is this?
“Comotio cordis is a life-threatening medical event that occurs mostly when young athletes (usually between the ages of 8 and 18) are hit in the chest by a hard ball such as a baseball or hockey puck, or by a blow to the chest while playing Loud injuries happen in a contact sport like football or soccer,” says Latifa Abdeli, a pathophysiology lecturer in the Department of Health Sciences. “A sudden, precisely timed impact during a heartbeat triggers a sudden change in the electrical signals generated by the heart cells, causing the heart to stop beating suddenly.”

Are there ways athletes can reduce their risk?
Experts say that it is difficult to prevent this phenomenon from happening.

“Chest protectors and vests can reduce trauma from blunt physical injury, but they will not provide protection against commotio cordis,” says Abdeli. “Athletes can be trained in techniques to avoid direct hits to the rib area. Using softer, more flexible balls for sports such as baseball or lacrosse can reduce the severity of the impact.

Bottom line: “Automated external defibrillator (AED) systems need to be present on any field where games or sports using pucks or hard balls are played. If possible, an athletic trainer should be present, But regardless, coaches and athletes should be taught how to recognize commotio cordis and how to perform CPR and how to use an AED when someone is having a cardiac event,” says Abdeli.

What role does an athletic trainer play on a professional football team, and how important was the early action of the medical professionals of the day?
The athletic trainer is the primary healthcare provider and coordinator of care for a professional football team and plays a primary role in designing, practicing and initiating an emergency action plan, says Carlos Gual, associate lecturer in the athletic training program. In such an incident, “starting CPR and using an AED within minutes is absolutely essential to the cardiac chain of survival,” Gual says. “It is the role of the athletic trainer to conduct a primary assessment, recognize the condition and its severity, and initiate an appropriate plan of care.”

What does physical fitness recovery look like for a professional athlete like Hamlin for this type of event? Does an elite level of fitness contribute to a shorter recovery period?
“For elite professional athletes, their timeline for return will be affected the most,” says Kristen Sheleschez, MD, director of the athletic training program and assistant director of the School of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Any athlete experiencing a medical condition such as cardiac arrest should progress through activities that increase cardiovascular exertion as part of a systematic and gradual plan.”

Even though an athlete like Hamlin will be in “high condition” before the event, deconditioning happens very rapidly — in just a few days — Schellscheus says. And elite athletes are also expected to return to higher performance levels than non-elite athletes.

“Hamlin will have a specific recovery protocol with a timeline of steps or steps that he will follow as part of his plan of care. He will have to be medically cleared before returning to the field, but with the season almost over, there is no pressure on him to return early,” says Shelhaze.

What are some preferences or specific rules that her healthcare providers might have in mind as they help her recover?
There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to recovery regimens, says Schellheis.

“You wouldn’t train a cross country runner the same way you would train a weight lifter—they emphasize different muscles, perform different sports skills and use different energy systems,” she says. “Even if you look at a specific sport like football, the thrusting activities for a receiver are very different from the thrusting activities for a lineman.”

Schellage says a team of athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength trainers will determine tailored activities for Hamlin that focus on muscle groups, sports skills and his cardiovascular needs for his role as a professional football safety. Does

Hamlin was placed in a medically induced coma and was intubated for several days. What are the side effects of intubation for the patient?
Speech pathologists say, intubation effects and their severity can vary from patient to patient.

“With a tube, the patient is not able to speak and the muscles used for swallowing become immobile,” says Vicki Lewis, a speech-language pathologist and instructor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Once the tube is removed, the patient may experience weakness, discomfort, hoarseness or cough when swallowing saliva, food or liquids.”

Speech pathologists work with the medical team to examine the patient’s vocal folds and trachea for any resulting trauma.

“Some patients may experience edema (swelling of the throat), growth or ulceration, decreased sensation, or muscle use atrophy after intubation,” says Lewis.

What are the most important factors for voice and swallowing recovery?
After intubation, a speech pathologist will evaluate the patient and may make a recommendation regarding the need for additional rehabilitative treatment such as swallowing or speech therapy.

“These recommendations may be important in preventing aspiration pneumonia and reducing the likelihood of the patient having to be re-intubated and returned to the ventilator,” says Todd Fix, M.D., an instructor in communication disorders and speech-language pathologist.

“Recovery will vary and depend on the length of intubation as well as the patient’s age, overall general and respiratory health, and other medical conditions,” says Fix. “Patient access and patient motivation to follow up on care can also play into the recovery process.”

Why is mental health support so important for athletes and the sporting community in situations like this?
Robin Kohn, a senior coach and graduate of the School of Social Work’s social work program director, says that providing services is important to the sports community because it helps members of a team by providing a safe environment to address their concerns. Uncovers stigma about mental health. and support feelings and a sense of emotional and physical security.

“In an aggressive sport like football, asking for help and showing weaknesses is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness,” Kohn says. “There’s a fear of being vulnerable—and a fear of the unknown—that what happened to Hamlin can happen to any athlete.”

Hamlin actively communicated a sense of resilience, such as when he asked if his team had won after regaining consciousness or using Twitter to tell his teammates that he was determined to play next week. enough emotional healing to return is helping,” she says.

After a traumatic experience like Hamlin’s, what role do social workers play in her and her peers’ recovery process?
Licensed clinical social workers can help players identify their feelings; realizing the effects of trauma; encourage consistency and predictability; validate feelings; Restore flexibility and regain control of the situation.

“Hamlin and his teammates witnessed a traumatic, horrific event that could have lasting effects on his and his team’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being,” Kohn says. “There is a fear of being vulnerable, a fear of the unknown and may experience sadness associated with what happened.”

“Reinstallation or reconstruction will be required,” Kohn says. “Seeing other football players get injured in the future can be a trigger that reignites intrusive thoughts and feelings. A licensed clinical social worker can help guard against this post-traumatic stress and encourage open discussion of feelings by changing excessive thought patterns, reinforcing the importance of a positive support system (that they have) and can provide effective coping skills to handle any situation. Symptoms related to the traumatic event.

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