NFL players may be at neurological risk after cardiac arrest

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January 3, 2023 — What can happen if your brain loses oxygen for a long period of time?

During Monday night’s Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals game, NFL fans nervously watched as Bills safety Damar Hamlin lay flat on his back surrounded by medical personnel, teammates and the coaching staff.

The 24-year-old Hamlin had just tackled a Bengals receiver late in the opening quarter when he got up and immediately collapsed.

The Buffalo Bills, in a statementsaid Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field and is in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Cardiac arrest occurs when there is an electrical malfunction in the heart — which can cause an irregular heartbeat — and the heart’s pumping ability is compromised, according to Laxmi Mehta, MD, director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. When this happens, blood is not pumped effectively to organs, including the brain and lungs, and serious damage can occur.

Hamlin had his heartbeat restored on the field after nearly 10 minutes of CPR and oxygen via an AED, more commonly known as a defibrillator, a medical device that delivers an electric shock to help your heartbeat return to a normal rhythm, reportedly.

Because crucial information about Hamlin’s condition has not yet been released, certain – now widely publicized – details about Hamlin’s injuries can still be considered “speculation”.‘ Mehta says. Therefore, although Hamlin may have received CPR and oxygen support for a few minutes, we cannot be certain “that he was not adequate [oxygen] Flow.”

“The point of CPR is that you’re doing these chest compressions — you’re forcing the heart to pump. So we would assume he had a blood circuit to the brain. But if people aren’t resuscitated in a timely manner, or if they aren’t getting effective chest compressions, then yes, there can be a lack of adequate blood flow and oxygen, and brain damage can occur,” she says.

This phenomenon, called anoxic brain injury, can lead to stroke-like effects, including seizures, an inability to move certain body parts, slurred speech, and trouble forming sentences, Mehta says.

Check back for more updates on this story.

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NFL players may be at neurological risk after cardiac arrest
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