When Buffalo Bills player Dama Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month, his teammates, fans and millions of supporters were anxious on the field. Watch and wait as he is cared for on the field and spends an indeterminate number of days in intensive care.
According to the CDC, approximately 2,000 people under the age of 25 die from cardiac arrest each year. Hamlin’s injury has reignited discussions across the country about the importance of having a certified athletic trainer and defibrillator on hand when young athletes practice and compete.
A panel of medical and rehabilitation experts from the School of Health Professions and Sciences weighed in on what happened, his physical and mental recovery and protecting the athlete’s heart health.
It seems likely that Hamlin experienced what is known as commotio cordis. what is this?
“Comotio cordis is a life-threatening medical event that occurs primarily when young athletes (usually between the ages of 8 and 18) are hit in the chest by a hard ball such as a baseball or hockey puck or receive a severe blow to the chest during a game contact sports like soccer,” said Latifa Abdelli, a lecturer in pathophysiology in the Department of Health Sciences. “A sudden impact at the right time of the heartbeat triggers a sudden change in the electrical signal produced by the heart cells, causing the heart to suddenly stop.”
What are some ways for athletes to minimize risk?
Experts say it will be difficult to prevent such an event from happening.
“Chest protectors and vests can reduce trauma from blunt physical injuries, but they don’t provide protection from cardiac concussion,” Abdelli said. “Athletes can be trained in technique to avoid direct hits to the thoracic region. Using a softer, more pliable ball in sports such as baseball or lacrosse may reduce the severity of the impact.”
The bottom line is: “Any field where contact sports are played or sports that use ice or hardballs needs to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) system. Athletic coaches should be present if possible, but regardless, coaches and players must learn to How to recognize a heart tremor and how to perform CPR and use an AED when someone has a cardiac event,” Abdelli said.
What is the role of an athletic coach on a professional football team? How important is early action by the medical professionals out there that day?
Athletic trainers are primary health care providers and care coordinators for professional soccer teams and play a major role in designing, implementing and initiating emergency operations plans, said Carlos Gual, associate instructor for the athletic training program. In such an event, “initiating CPR and using an AED within minutes is absolutely essential to the cardiac chain of survival,” Gual said. “It is the athletic trainer’s role to conduct an initial assessment, identify the condition and its severity, and initiate an appropriate plan of care.”
For a professional athlete like Hamlin, what’s the recovery going to be like for an event like this? Does Elite-Level Fitness Help Shorten Recovery Periods?
“For elite professional athletes, the timetable for their return will be most influenced by how long they last,” says Kristen Shellhas, director of the athletic training program and assistant director of the College of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Any athlete who experiences a medical condition such as a cardiac arrest must progress by increasing cardiovascular activity as part of a systematic and progressive program.”
Schellhase said that while athletes like Hamlin were “in better shape” before the incident, the decline was very rapid — within a few days. Elite athletes are also expected to return to higher performance levels than non-elite athletes.
“Hamlin will have a specific recovery protocol with rules or phase schedules he will follow as part of his care plan. He has to go through a medical to return to play, but as the season draws to a close, there is no quick return for him. pressure,” Schellhase said.
What priorities or specific programs will his healthcare provider consider in helping him recover?
There is no “one size fits all” recovery plan, Schellhase said.
“You don’t train trail runners the way you train weightlifters—they emphasize different muscles, perform different motor skills and use different energy systems,” she says. “Even if you look at a specific sport like football, the activities that are emphasized by receivers are very different from those that are emphasized by linebackers.”
A team of athletic trainers, physical therapists and strength coaches will develop a tailored program for Hamlin that focuses on muscle groups, motor skills and the cardiovascular demands of his role as a professional football safety, Schellhase said.
Hamlin was placed in a medically induced coma and intubated for several days. What side effects might patients experience during intubation?
Speech-language pathologists say the effects of intubation and their severity vary from patient to patient.
“With the tube, the patient can’t speak and the muscles used to swallow are immobilized,” said Vicki Lewis, a speech-language pathologist and lecturer in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Once the tube is removed, patients experience weakness, discomfort, hoarseness or coughing when swallowing saliva, food or liquids.”
The speech pathologist works with the medical team to examine the patient’s vocal cords and trachea for any resulting trauma.
“Some patients may experience edema (swelling of the throat), growths or ulcers, hypoesthesia, or muscle disuse atrophy after intubation,” Lewis said.
What is the most important factor in voice and swallowing recovery?
After intubation, the speech pathologist will evaluate the patient and make recommendations on the need for additional rehabilitation, such as swallowing or speech therapy.
“These recommendations are critical to the prevention of aspiration pneumonia and the likelihood that patients will be reintubated and put back on the ventilator,” said Todd Fix, a lecturer and speech-language pathologist in Communication Science Disorders.
“Recovery will vary, depending on the length of intubation and the patient’s age, overall general and respiratory health, and other medical conditions,” Fix said. “A patient’s access to follow-up care and patient motivation can also influence the recovery process.”
Why is mental health support so important to athletes and the sporting world in this situation?
Robin Kohn, a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work and director of the Bachelor of Social Work program, said the provision of services is critical to the sporting world because it removes concerns by providing a safe environment for team members to voice their concerns. address stigma and feelings about mental health and support their emotional and physical safety.
“In an aggressive sport like soccer, asking for help and showing weakness is a sign of strength, not weakness,” Cohen said. “There’s an overwhelming fear of vulnerability and fear of the unknown — what happened to Hamlin could happen to any athlete.”
“Hamlin actively communicates a resilience, like when he asks his team if they won after regaining consciousness, or uses Twitter to let teammates know he was watching, helping them recover enough to get them back next week. field,” she said.
What role did social workers play in Hamlin’s and his teammates’ recovery after a traumatic experience like Hamlin’s?
A licensed clinical social worker can help players identify their emotions; realize the effects of trauma; encourage stability and predictability; validate feelings; restore resilience and regain control of the situation.
“Hamlin and his teammates witnessed a traumatic, horrific event that could have lasting effects on his and his team’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual health,” Cohen said. “People have an overwhelming fear of being vulnerable, of the fear of the unknown, and they can grieve what’s happened.”
“There will be a need to restore or rebuild,” Cohen said. “Seeing other footballers get injured in the future can reignite intrusive thoughts and emotions. Licensed clinical social workers can help with recovery from this post-traumatic stress and by emphasizing having a positive support system (which they have) importance of changing overwhelming thought patterns, encouraging open discussion of emotions and providing effective coping skills to deal with any problematic symptoms associated with traumatic events.”