Millions of football fans held their breath for nearly 20 long minutes Monday night when Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills went into cardiac arrest after making a routine tackle. As the players formed a prayer circle to shield him from view, the 24-year-old security was revived and taken to a hospital, where he remains in critical condition. Thousands of fans expressed their horror on social media, while more than 100 people held a solemn vigil outside the hospital.
Except for some jerks who used the tragedy to spread misinformation about covid vaccines, there was uniform concern for the young athlete. “A lot of times people forget what players are risking on Sundays.” tweeted Scott Quessenberry, offensive lineman for Houston Texas.
It is a key point. Hamlin’s injury isn’t exclusive to soccer; in fact, experts told NBC News it’s likely a rare cardiac event, more common in young hockey or baseball players. But context is key here. Once again, a player’s family and friends are left hoping for the best. Because week after week, game after game, it has become inescapably clear that the NFL is a brutal and violent league that, even under the best of circumstances, inflicts life-altering damage on its players. While Monday’s incident was probably an outlier, injuries of all kinds have become incredibly predictable. We have known this for years, although we prefer to ignore the truth.
As highlighted this week, soccer’s damage takes many forms. But the brains of the players take some of the worst. In the largest study on the subject 99% of former NFL players showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma. With the caveat that all the samples came from symptomatic players (and who agreed to have their brains donated to the study), the evidence clearly shows a lifetime of soccer routines, not just the bone-cracking, tendon-scratching ones. injury, can cause memory loss, alarming mood swings, and severe depression. In some cases, it can be a precursor to suicide, as was the case with Hall of Famer Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 and requested that his brain be posthumously examined for signs of CTE.
It’s arguably easier to overlook cumulative damage when two linemen collide with each other 75 times per game for 18 weeks.
Another key study showed that 40% of retired NFL players have a traumatic brain injury, with no correlation between the number of concussions and the severity of the injury. The longer they played, the more likely they were to have brain damage.
It’s arguably easier to overlook cumulative damage when two linemen collide with each other 75 times a game over 18 weeks, but this season has highlighted how inherently serious bodily damage is to the game itself. Seau’s death brought the issue of traumatic brain injury to a boiling point, and yet the league’s steps to address the problem appear to be little more than Band-Aids.
In preseason, the NFL finally tested new helmets designed to prevent concussions. League reports suggest they were effective.but no move has been made to require them in the regular season or postseason.
The league does have a concussion protocol to determine if a player who has taken a severe blow can return to the game, but it is an internal process subject to unspoken pressure. On September 25, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took such a brutal hit that the coaches helped him off the field. He later returned to the game and the team called it a back injury.
Less than a week later, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins were back on the field, where an opposing player hit his head on the turf yet again. The raised his hands in an unnatural movement that can be a sign of traumatic brain injury. former players expressed outrage he was even playing while after the match, his coach expressed relief “that he had nothing more serious than a concussion.”
Just Sunday, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles josh sweat lay face down in the field for several minutes after crashing into a New Orleans Saints player. He left the game with a neck injury but is expected to recover. also on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles convulsed on the field after being fired by Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. After the game, the team announced that Foles only suffered a “rib injury,” but the image of Thibodeaux impersonating snow angels alongside a convulsing Foles is another bad image for him and the NFL.
The risk that every player assumes on Sundays.
I didn’t see any of these injuries in real time. I gave up the sport nine years ago when I realized I could no longer reconcile my love of soccer with the brutal blood sport it had become. I got my Sundays back and leaned more into other passions. In almost a decade I have not seen a single work and at no time have I regretted the decision.
The question is: why haven’t more fans done the same? The league is always mired in controversy, from Colin Kaepernick’s protest and subsequent backlash to the league’s lenient response to sexual assault allegations against Deshaun Watson to his cruel animal research on man’s best friend. None of that makes a dent in the league’s popularity.
We can pray and hope for Hamlin’s recovery, but we’ll be back in the stands on Sunday afternoon. In fact, some people are already noticing that Hamlin’s injury was more bad luck than brutality. That is technically true. But it is also one more broken body in a season full of them. On a philosophical level, incidents like this should remind fans of the broader cost of America’s game. But it’s just as likely to further desensitize viewers to the impact of next week’s round of gruesome injuries.