Caption: Bills fans sign a poster in support of Demar Hamlin’s recovery.
By Ryan Harless
Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.
January 17, 2023
Over recent years, we have watched the National Football League come under scrutiny due to their responses to severe injuries that happen to players. Just this season alone we have seen frightening injuries on live TV. We know football is a potentially dangerous sport for participants and that players are risking their lives when they step on the field. But no one was prepared for what we saw when the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals faced off in the next-to-last regular season game.
On January 2nd of this year, Bills’ safety Demar Hamlin tackled Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin got up after the tackle, then stiffened and fell backwards. This caused widespread panic not only to the viewers at home and in the stadium but also to the players on the field. Bengals’ running back Joe Mixon immediately started waving for medical personnel after Hamlin collapsed while many of the other players looked on in horror and shock. CPR was performed on Hamlin while he was still on the field which led many to fear the worst.
Hamlin was unresponsive as he was carted off the field and transported to a hospital in Cincinnati. Looking at the hit, we realized that this was not the same sort of injury we are accustomed to seeing as there was no major impact to Hamlin’s head. Rather, the injury was to his heart as he suffered cardiac arrest on the field. At the time, we were unaware of what precisely his injury was.
After many uncomfortable minutes for fans in the stadium and fans watching at home, it was announced that the game would be suspended. Coaches for both teams agreed that the game should not resume. The NFL agreed with the coaches and suspended the game around 10 p.m.
This decision proved to be divisive among sports writers and fans alike. Some agreed with the decision of the league to not continue play as no one (outside of medical personnel) was aware of the severity of Hamlin’s injury. Some, such as Skip Bayless, tweeted a question of how the NFL would be able to postpone such an important game with post-season implications.
Of course, Bayless was hit with a wave of negative backlash to the extent that his “Skip & Shannon” co-host protested by not showing up for their show the next day. After a day of Skip hosting by himself, Shannon was back on the show and they discussed the Tweet in question.
The silver lining of the Hamlin situation is that he has since been released from a hospital in Buffalo following his transfer from UC Medical Center and was reportedly up and cheering on his team from the former hospital. He was even on a phone call with his team before their game the following week. Hamlin’s playing days are still a point of uncertainly, however.
This instance goes to show that neither the NFL nor fans know what the proper response to injuries should be. The NFL seems to do everything they can to have games move forward. But I think there are times where situations arise that are infinitely bigger than the game. There have been many strides in the past few years towards making the game safer. Things like advanced helmets made to help reduce impact on shots to the head, and just knowing more about concussions as a whole. But it seems clear to me that the NFL is not going to be the one to step in and make a change. I just worry that if things do not improve soon, there might be an even more severe on field injury that changes the current course of action for dealing with injuries.