Damar Hamlin cleared to play four months after cardiac arrest

The Buffalo Bills safety collapsed on the field after making what appeared to be a routine tackle in a January 2 game against the Bengals

Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills
In this October 9, 2022 photo, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.TIMOTHY T LUDWIG (AFP)

Wearing a red cap and a Buffalo Bills pullover, safety Damar Hamlin sat down at the podium and declared he’s ready to resume playing football. “This event was life-changing, but it’s not the end of my story,” Hamlin said Tuesday, speaking at a news conference at the team’s facility for the first time since he went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati some four months ago.

“I plan on making a comeback to the NFL,” Hamlin added.

“My heart is still in the game. I love the game. It’s something I want to prove to myself, not nobody else. I just want to show people that fear is a choice, that, you know, you can keep going in something without having the answers,” he said. “You might feel anxious, you might feel any type of way, but you just keep putting that right foot in front of the left one and you keep going.”

Hamlin spoke a few hours after general manager Brandon Beane announced that Hamlin was cleared to play and was attending the team’s voluntary workout program, the latest and biggest steps in the 25-year-old’s remarkable recovery.

“He’s fully cleared. He’s here and he is of the mindset. He’s in a great headspace to come back and make his return,” Beane told reporters.

Beane said the clearance came after Hamlin met with a third and final specialist on Friday, with all three being in agreement that Hamlin can resume playing without any fear of setbacks or complications. While the Bills had their head athletic trainer sit in on Hamlin’s meetings with specialists, Beane said the team is following the lead of the specialists.

“He’s such a great kid and has such a great family, and it’s exciting to go from a guy who was fighting for his life to now,” Beane said. “His story hasn’t been written. Now it’s about his comeback.”

Hamlin said the specialists agreed that his heart stopped as a result of commotio cordis, which is a direct blow at a specific point in a heartbeat that causes cardiac arrest.

Hamlin’s teammates were elated to see him back in the facility working out.

“D-Ham is a special person, a beautiful soul,” fellow safety Micah Hyde said. “I look up to him, especially how he’s bounced back after facing adversity. A little scary. But to see him well and in the building and move around a little bit, it gives you a little energy.”

Hamlin’s recovery is personal to many who watched in shock as Hamlin collapsed on the field on a nationally televised “Monday Night Football” game, but moreso for Beane. While the Bills returned home after the game initially was suspended and eventually canceled, Beane spent the first four days at Hamlin’s side, including when he was awakened from a medically induced coma at the University Cincinnati Medical Center.

“It was all about his health, and it’s always going to be about his health,” Beane said. “But to truly, you know, however many months later be talking about he’s fully cleared is pretty remarkable. And I’m excited for him and his family where for where they are on his journey.”

Hamlin collapsed after making what appeared to be a routine tackle in the first quarter of a Jan. 2 game against the Bengals. His collapse led to an outporing of support from around the NFL and across North America, with donations made to Hamlin’s charitable organization topping more than $9 million.

The second-year player from Pittsburgh’s exurb of McKee’s Rock spent nearly 10 days recovering in hospitals in Cincinnati and Buffalo before being released. He eventually began visiting the Bills’ facility and attended the team’s season-ending 27-10 loss to Cincinnati in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Hamlin has since made numerous appearances around the country, including meeting with President Joe Biden last month.

Biden posted a tweet on the visit that read: “Hamlin’s courage, resilience, and spirit inspired the American people. And what’s more: he turned recovery into action — and our country is better for it.”

The White House said in a statement that Hamlin’s efforts during his recovery had helped to “make life-saving technologies more widely available.” Biden previously spoke by phone with Hamlin’s parents while visiting Cincinnati on Jan. 4, two days after the game and while Hamlin was in the hospital.

Hamlin’s visit to Washington came as part of the player’s desire to back a bill that would increase access to defibrillators in public and private elementary and secondary schools.

During the Super Bowl festivities in Arizona in February, he received the NFLPA’s Alan Page Community Award. He also took part in a pregame ceremony in which the NFL honored the Bills’ and Bengals’ training and medical staffs and first responders who treated him.

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