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Home » Damar Hamlin suffers cardiac arrest on field — not vaccine-related (UPDATED)

Damar Hamlin suffers cardiac arrest on field — not vaccine-related (UPDATED)

Yesterday, I was watching the Monday Night NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, when I saw a player, Damar Hamlin, stand up after a tackle, then apparently collapse. He suffered a cardiovascular event, and he had to be resuscitated on the field in front of his teammates, opponents, fans at the stadium, and the TV audience. Eventually, the game was postponed, with the NFL doing the right thing for its player, something that it doesn’t frequently do.

As of the time of this writing, Hamlin is still in critical condition (see update below, he’s now ready to play football again) and is being treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (where the game was being played). There is little information coming from the NFL, the Buffalo Bills (the team he was playing for), or the hospital about his condition or prognosis, so everyone is hopeful.

Within seconds of Hamlin’s injury, anti-vaxxers were on Twitter claiming that the injury was a direct result of the COVID-19 vaccine. Ignoring real medical science and making conclusions based on a total lack of evidence, which is typical for the anti-vaccine crowd.

I’m going to first discuss what probably happened to Damar Hamlin, based on the best available science, and then talk about the disgusting anti-vaccine cretins.


What happened to Damar Hamlin?

Right now, there isn’t a lot of good information, just a lot of speculation (see update below, we do know what happened). Apparently, after Hamlin made a tackle, where he was hit in the chest area, Hamlin fell to the ground. He got up for a few seconds, then immediately collapsed. This was at 2055 ET.

Within seconds trainers and both team’s medical personnel were right there. As best as we know, he had had a cardiac arrest, and he was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation for around 10 minutes. An ambulance came onto the field at that time to assist and transport him to the hospital. I do not know if he was defibrillated, but that has been reported by some news outlets. It was hard to see anything on the field as both football teams kind of surrounded the area blocking any clear views for privacy.

At 2125 ET, Hamlin was given oxygen and placed in the ambulance to be transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. As I mentioned above, he is being reported now as being in critical condition.

And that’s about all we know as of this time.

So what caused it? It is possible that he suffered commotio cordis, which is a condition where the heart receives a blunt trauma right when the heart is in the early T wave of the cardiac cycle.

Public Domain,

Commotio cordis is mostly observed in young adult and teenage males. And the sport where it’s mostly found is baseball when the ball hits the chest of a player. It is very rare — I had heard about it a long time ago when I was receiving training in cardiovascular disease, but I doubt I’ve seen the word “commotio cordis” during the past three decades.

Below is a YouTube video from Brian Sutterer, MD, who specializes in sports medicine. He speculates as to what may have caused the cardiac arrest, and he makes it clear that it’s not vaccines.

Once again, Damar Hamlin probably (though we don’t have anything definitive from anyone) suffered from commotio cordis, not vaccine injury.

Anti-vaccine nonsense

I’m going to stick with one anti-vaxxer, and that would be Steve Kirsch about whom we’ve written several times. Kirsch doesn’t understand anything about vaccines, but he has become a vile anti-COVID-19 vaccine voice that gets a lot of traction.

Blaming the COVID-19 vaccine is probably related to the tiny risk of myocarditis (lower than the risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 itself).

Let’s go over Kirsch’s nonsense claims about Hamlin’s injury.

  • Kirsch claims that Hamlin had received the COVID-19 vaccine. We actually don’t know this because even NFL players have rights to medical privacy. I assume that Hamlin was vaccinated because the NFL really pushed it, but we don’t know for sure.
  • Kirsh claims that Hamlin had a “subclinical vaccine-induced myocarditis must be considered in the differential diagnosis.” Almost every cardiologist I know says it’s commotio cordis. Kirsch gets his information from an anti-vaccine physician Peter McCullough who is being sued by his former employers. However, later in the post, Kirsch mentions that Dr. McCullough also thought it could be commotio cordis, typical confusion from Kirsch.
  • Kirsch claims that Hamlin has anoxic encephalopathy, although once again, Kirsch has zero evidence that this is the case. Kirsch just appears to invent nonsense right out of thin air.

Kirsch isn’t the only anti-vaxxer pushing the vaccine nonsense. There is Dr. Paul Alexander who is blaming the COVID-19 vaccine. Like Kirsch, his claims are based on invented nonsense, not on science.

The right wing is using this injury to push all kinds of anti-vaccine nonsense about Damar Hamlin, despite the total and absolute lack of evidence supporting their claims. Typical of the anti-vaccine world.


Real physicians are telling us that Damar Hamlin suffered from commotio cordis, although, like real doctors everywhere, they are measured in their diagnosis. They think it’s that, but they know that they don’t have all the information.

On the other hand, the anti-vaccine crowd makes claims without evidence, targeting COVID-19 vaccines as the cause. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and as a vaccine expert, I stand by that.

Update 20 April 2023

When the above article was written, everything was speculation. We didn’t know what actually caused Hamlin to collapse and require cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But now, we do have the facts.

Hamlin recently spoke to sports reporters about his injury. As we speculated back when he first had his injury, he stated that several specialists agreed on a diagnosis of commotio cordis, an extremely rare consequence of blunt force trauma hitting the chest at the wrong time — a minuscule 20-millisecond window out of a typical 1,000 milliseconds of a regular heartbeat. You just could not predict that this would happen.

In order to reach the commotio cordis diagnosis, Hamlin’s cardiologists would have excluded other cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery-related or ischemic heart disease and any dissection or spasm of the arteries or some other kind of congenital anomaly in the heart’s blood vessels. Electrical problems would also have to have been considered as potential contributors to cardiac arrest. Obviously, his cardiac care team looked at everything to eliminate any other condition that might have caused his symptoms.

After all of this, Brandon Beane, the Buffalo Bills general manager, said that physicians had “fully cleared” Hamlin to resume full football activities.

After all of this, there was not one single mention by Hamlin or his healthcare team that the cardiac event had anything to do with vaccines. I don’t think we can be any clearer — the commotio cordis was caused by a very rare event where he was struck in the chest at precisely the moment when it could cause the most harm.

Every time something strange happens to someone this young, the anti-vaccine crowd jumps up and down and blames the COVID-19 vaccine. They are almost always wrong.

Michael Simpson
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