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NFL Faces Latest Injury Crisis With Hamlin’s Collapse


The N.F.L. was facing one in every of its worst crises in many years as Buffalo Bills defender Damar Hamlin remained in critical condition on Tuesday after collapsing during a prime-time game in Cincinnati, raising fresh questions on ever-present serious injury in America’s biggest sport.

Hamlin, 24, collapsed in the primary quarter of a highly anticipated matchup with the Bengals on Monday night, forcing the league to suspend the sport. As Hamlin lay on the sector motionless, lots of his teammates in tears nearby, doctors pumped his heart in a suddenly hushed stadium.

After Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored and he was taken off the sector by ambulance, to be transported to a hospital trauma unit, the coaches conferred with Shawn Smith, the pinnacle referee, and the players walked into their locker rooms. About half-hour later, the league formally postponed the sport, and the Bills later flew back to Buffalo.

The dark turn was a reminder that the N.F.L. has develop into America’s hottest league despite an always-present risk of violence. With the regular season winding down and the playoffs across the corner, the league has seen a record variety of close contests and jaw-dropping plays, and has been richly rewarded by broadcasters and sponsors for them.

However the N.F.L. juggernaut flipped to a prime-time nightmare that overtook a national showcase between two championship contenders. The query of violence that at all times hovers over N.F.L. contests had once more rocked the league. Hamlin’s cardiac arrest was no torn knee or busted ankle. It was potentially life ending, probably the most frightening variety of injury in a sport built on frightening collisions.

The response from fans and football veterans was swift, and each predictable and confusing. There have been many expressions of support. Sensing the gravity of the situation, many other N.F.L. teams sent well wishes to Hamlin on Twitter. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated overnight to a fund-raiser that Hamlin had set as much as pay for toys to be distributed at a day care center run by his mother, Nina.

At the identical time, television viewers heard Joe Buck, ESPN’s play-by-play broadcaster for the sport, say that the players, just before they returned to the locker rooms, were told they might have about five minutes to get able to play again. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow might be seen tossing a football.

“That’s the word we get from the league and the word we get from down on the sector, but no one’s moving,” Buck said.

In a news conference about three hours later, the N.F.L. denied that there was any consideration to restarting the sport.

“Immediately, my player hat went on,” Troy Vincent, the N.F.L.’s executive vp of football operations and a former cornerback, said to reporters. “How do you resume play after you’ve seen such a traumatic event occur in front of you real time? And that’s the best way we were fascinated by it.”

Regardless of the truth, football fans — and even former star players — are once more asking whether the sport they enjoy is definitely worth the risk. Ryan Clark, a former hard-hitting defensive back who’s now an analyst on ESPN, said many players idiot themselves into considering they’re modern-day gladiators when the truth is they’re highly paid entertainers smashing their bodies for a living.

“We use these cliches. ‘Going to war,’ ‘willing to die,’ ‘give all of it,’” Clark wrote on Twitter on Monday night. “That’s all talk. It’s a game. A game! You never suit up & think you’re not going to make it home.”

Hamlin’s collapse was removed from the one reminder of football’s “next man up” culture in a league where the shortage of guaranteed contracts incentivize players to return to motion as quickly as possible. Indeed, Hamlin had joined the Bills’ starting lineup in September as a substitute for Bills safety Micah Hyde, who has been out with a neck injury.

On Sunday, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles left a game after being sacked by the Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, who celebrated the hit as Foles appeared to convulse on the sector. Foles was carted off but was listed with a rib injury.

Also on Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat left the sector on a cart after attempting to make a headfirst tackle on Latest Orleans Saints fullback Adam Prentice. Sweat stayed on the bottom facedown for several minutes and raised his arm to the gang as he left the sector. He later vowed on Twitter to return this season.

In September, Bills cornerback Dane Jackson injured his neck and was immobilized and transported in an ambulance to a hospital in Buffalo. He was released from the hospital the following day and returned to play in October.

Ten days later, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken to a hospital after slamming his head against the turf in a game against the Bengals. Tagovailoa immediately raised his hands and his fingers were splayed, a gesture called a “fencing response” that is usually a sign of brain injury.

The concussion highlighted an investigation that began the prior week into how the Dolphins responded after Tagovailoa seemed to be concussed in a game against the Bills. The league subsequently updated its concussion protocol to ban a player from returning to play if he shows ataxia, a term describing impaired balance or coordination attributable to damage to the brain or nerves.

Tagovailoa was again diagnosed with a concussion after being sacked on Dec. 25 in a game against the Green Bay Packers.

Injuries and even deaths are usually not unusual in football. Every 12 months, a handful of highschool football players die, some from heat stroke, some from broken necks. Families and communities are shattered. Yet while participation in highschool football has slipped in recent times, it stays the preferred sport amongst boys.

The N.F.L. is one other realm since it has turned the sport into mass entertainment, complete with cheerleaders, packed stadiums and big-name sponsors hawking their products. Yet the N.F.L. knows the sport’s violence has turned off fans, and has watched families steer their sons into baseball, basketball and soccer.

So the league takes pains to remind fans that it’s using its vast resources to “make the sport safer” and “take the pinnacle out of the sport.” In 2019, the league even produced a video on easy methods to recognize and rescue players that suffer sudden cardiac arrest.

But tackle football centers on players crashing into each other on every down, and no amount of dollars, training and good intentions will change that. The very best the N.F.L. can do is reduce risk, not eliminate it.

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