Chattanoogans respond to Damar Hamlin injury

Local cardiologist says cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, is not a threat specifically for football players

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Many Chattanoogans are praying for Buffalo Bulls safety Damar Hamlin to make a full recovery from his life-threatening injury on Monday Night Football.

The entire country is seemingly praying for the former Pitt Panther to survive an incident that one local doctor compared to catching lightning in a bottle.

Cardiologist Dr. Selcuk Tombul says that while Hamlin went through a cardiac arrest on a televised broadcast, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

After a seemingly routine tackle by Hamlin, the second-year safety suddenly collapsed on the gridiron.

Tombul, upon seeing the play, believed it to be commotio cordis — a disruption to the heart that he describes as a “lightning strike” to the heart’s electrical system.

“He just hit the heart at the wrong time and it happens just that frequently — not very,” Tombul said. “Fortunately for him, he’s a very fit young guy and he can take a punch, obviously. Now he’s on life support and it’s all about how much injury to the brain, if any, is there.”

Tombul says the injury sustained by the 24-year-old is not one that should be viewed as exclusive to football players and believes it was purely accidental.

“It’s all about getting hit in the chest,” Tombul said. “It can happen anywhere — hockey, lacrosse. Usually, the described cases involve some kind of projectile — it could be dad having a catch with his son in the front yard.”

Nathan Hammett, a local Green Bay Packers fan, says it’s inspiring to see the country rally together in prayer and support for Hamlin.

But when discussing game safety, despite his cardiac arrest, Hammett says he’d still allow his kids to play contact football.

“You know, you sign these contracts for a reason saying that if you get injured, you can’t sue and stuff like that,” Hammett said. “Basically, you’re accepting that you could possibly be injured in these positions that you’re playing — that’s just the way I see it. If my kids want to play it someday, that’s fine. But if they get injured, that’s just something I’m going to have to accept as their parent, as well.”

Hammett says regardless of what team you root for, what happened Monday night is something you never want to see happen to anyone.

Dr. Tombul says that there is a chance for Hamlin to make a full recovery.

If he does, it will require some sort of “prolonged rehab” and therapy.

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