Editorial | Damar Hamlin’s injury shows importance of safety in football


AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Fans stand in support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) before an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills and former Pitt player, went into cardiac arrest during a game a few weeks ago. Hamlin was in critical condition, but as of Monday, he is awake and on the road to recovery. Fans, players and NFL teams rallied together for Hamlin, tweeting support for the player and even raising $8 million for the charity he backs. 

While the support from everyone — the NFL and its players especially — is heartwarming to see, player safety comes into question after an incident like Hamlin’s injury. Despite calls to make the sport safer, the NFL seems to care more about maintaining its ratings rather than player safety. 

According to ESPN, the NFL initially intended to continue game play after Hamlin’s injury. While the NFL denied this report, and eventually decided to cancel the game due to “extraordinary circumstances,” their initial willingness to continue a sporting event after such a traumatic incident shows the organization’s lack of priority for player safety. 

While it’s unclear why Hamlin went into cardiac arrest, some cardiologists predict that the collision with the opposing team’s player caused his heart to go into an arrhythmia. While this particular incident was a somewhat freak accident, injuries are common in the NFL, and are sometimes brushed over. 

Concussions especially are far too regular in football. Despite this, the NFL didn’t fully disclose concussions of players from 1996 to 2001, and just this year experts criticized the organization’s concussion protocol after Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered back-to-back game head injuries. The NFL is under scrutiny for these actions and rightfully so. 

Typically, the NFL just puts out a simple statement regarding a player’s injury. However, after the extremely public and scary medical response to Hamlin, the organization was candid in its approach to reporting the incident, constantly giving updates to the public. Overall the NFL needs to be more upfront about the injuries that the sport can cause, despite potential bad press.

While medical personnel responded quickly to Hamlin’s unprecedented injury — potentially saving his life — it’s still important that the NFL implement strong safety rules that reduce the risk of injury, such as emergency-action plans and concussion protocols. While players understand the many risks that come with playing a sport as physically aggressive as football, they shouldn’t have to worry about potentially fatal injuries every time they step on the field.