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Dr. Nandi answers questions concerning Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin

Posted at 4:01 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 17:44:05-05

(WXYZ) — In Thursday’s Health Alert, our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi is answering viewer questions regarding what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

The first question is this: “How can this happen to someone so young and presumably in good health?”

First of all, I’m happy to hear that Hamlin has shown remarkable improvement and that he’s reportedly awake and communicating through short, handwritten notes.

As for the question, we don’t know what led to cardiac arrest. We just know that Hamil collapsed on the field moments after a collision with Bengals receiver Tee Higgins.

It’s possible that he suffered a blow to his chest that caused a dangerous condition called commotio cordis. That’s when trauma to the left side of the chest, timed exactly to a specific 30-millisecond window during a heartbeat triggers abnormal electrical activity in the heart. That leads to dangerous fibrillations.

And as we saw with Hamlin, the person typically loses consciousness and stops breathing.

Now, commotio cordis is rare. Less than 30 cases are reported yearly in the U.S. It happens most often in projectile sports like hockey or baseball, where players can get hit with a hockey puck or ball.

The condition is typically seen in boys between the ages of 8 and 18. And that could be because younger boys are more likely to play sports than girls or older adults.

So, you don’t have to be unhealthy to suffer from this condition. It’s getting hit at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next question from a viewer is: “Are these players getting EKGs and getting their hearts checked on a regular basis?”

Yes, all NFL players get an EKG, are examined for heart abnormalities and have to pass health tests ahead of each season. The player's personal and family medical history is also reviewed.

But there is no preexisting condition when it comes to commotio cordis. That means no physical exam would have picked it up. Commotio cordis happens mostly because of an unlucky freak accident.

I also want to address the rumors going around concerning COVID-19 vaccines. There’s no indication that a vaccine played a role in Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. I know anti-vaxxers want to blame COVID-19 vaccinations for sudden cardiac arrests, but these have been happening long before the COVID pandemic.

In fact, a 2018 British study by the Football Association analyzed 20 years of data that included over 11,000 players. They found that cardiac deaths were more common than previously thought and mostly happened to players with no diagnosed heart condition.

My thoughts and prayers are with Hamlin and his family. I know we’ll hear more concerning his condition in the coming days. And hopefully, his health care team will get to the bottom of what exactly caused his cardiac arrest.

If you work, have children or live a busy life, it’s hard to stay active. But being fit doesn’t mean spending two hours a day at the gym. Whether at home or using your environment to your advantage, there are countless ways to make fitness fun and fast. In this episode, Dr. Partha Nandi, MD, and guests discuss express workouts. He's joined by actor Michael G. White who talks about martial arts and diet. Also, a fitness expert who once was 50 pounds overweight shares simple exercises that you can do even in small spaces. Plus, a sports specialist and associate professor explains what exercise does to our brains. Tune in Saturday, Jan. 7 at 1 p.m.

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