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Salt Lake City – The first response was the most important, but the second and third responses can have a vital impact, too.
That speaks to the incredible response emitted by the medical staff and first responders at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati when Buffalo Bills defenseman Demar Hamlin collapsed shockingly unconscious in the middle of the first quarter on Monday Night Football against the hometown Bengals.
Hamlin He suffered a heart attack On the field that silenced the crowd, captivated the nation, and stunned teammates and opponents as the Bills were assisted by Athletic Coach Denny Killington and the medical staff. Life-saving CPR techniques..
Hamlin is still in Critical condition but actively recovering at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, as the NFL turns its attention toward another offset Monday night.
Among those, the league must consider the mental toll of the horrific injury witnessed by millions around the world, including Hamlin’s teammates and fellow leaguers, mental health experts told KSL.com.
He said, “We all realized life in that moment.” Kevin “Doc” Woods II, a former Utah Valley basketball player who now works as the program’s mental health specialist while running a private practice at Comprehensive training. “He wasn’t just a footballer or an artist; we got to know the human being. We all got together.
“It was emotionally disarming, with feelings of helplessness, confusion, vulnerability, and uncertainty about what was going on.”
It’s easy to view footballers as commodities with a league that’s also a business. Humans are often resources in the corporate world; And the NFL is the same, with rosters of 53 players, coaching teams, and players bouncing in and out of the league every year—not to mention the daily, weekly, and monthly grind of those on the sidelines.
Demar Hamlin FaceTimed into our team meeting today to speak with the players and coaches.
What he said to the team: “I love you boys.” ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8dorrWNaxt
– Buffalo Bills January 6, 2023
But the NFL’s greatest resource is its players, and that resource should be prioritized with mental health resources for athletes who experienced trauma in the game or were otherwise triggered by watching events unfold on national television.
“When I first saw it, it looked like a regular hit, a hit we’ve seen many times,” said a former NFL player. Mike Gibson, a five-year NFL vet for the Eagles, Seahawks, and Cardinals and now works as a mental health and addiction recovery advocate for Mental Health Center San Diego. “Injuries happen in football; they happen every day in practice and in games… Everything changes, not when the ambulance came out, but the second time they started resuscitation.
“I didn’t see that on the football field, and I didn’t see most of the players there; then everything changed. There’s a brotherhood that runs from training camp to daily fights, and eventually you think of them as family. That became so much bigger than football.”
Suddenly, a reliably violent game of soccer collides with the reality of a 24-year-old fighting for his life. Hamlin is no longer just a soccer player.
He was someone’s son, brother, friend, and that was, to a lot of people, in the Buffalo Bills locker room. A GoFundMe account linked to his nonprofit organization Chasing M has raised more than $7 million in just a few days, prompting fans to Donate directly to the foundation They also learned about a third-year defensive back from Pittsburgh with a Heart of Gold.
Even Hamlin’s first utterances after regaining consciousness involved football: Did the Bills win?
“Much better destruction performance, and that helps,” said Gibson. “He’s talking to his team over FaceTime, and they know what he wants.
“It changes your perspective on the whole thing. It helps players want to go out and play for it; they know they can do it.”
NFL officials attempted to acknowledge Hamlin during the league’s final regular season game, with tributes from fans, players, and staff including:
- A pregame moment of support reads at every NFL stadium during Week 18, asking the fans to join the clubhouse in “a moment of support and love for Damar, cheering on him and his family as they continue their fight.”
- Marking #3 on each 30-yard line in either Buffalo Bills Red or Buffalo Bills Blue
- Wearing black T-shirts during pre-match warm-ups that include the words “Love for Damar 3.” The Bills players will wear similar jerseys, but in royal blue.
- Jersey patch #3 worn by the Bills during a Week 18 game.
It’s unlike anything Gibson, a longtime football fan, has experienced before and after his playing days are over.
“I think this is a way for the current players and fans to recognize what happened and not just forget about it and move on,” Gibson said. “This is important in mental health: You recognize the incident, process it, understand it, and then move on. That’s how it makes us better in the long run.”
Seeing star players like Buffalo’s quarterback Josh Allen and Cincinnati’s Joe Borough drive up to honor Hamlin could potentially help those athletes who feel stuck playing a game while a teammate and/or friend and partner fights in a hospital room, he said.
“We know it could happen, but we never thought it could be one of us,” Gibson said. “Psychologically, it will affect the people who were there.
“Even if it’s a one shot in a million, you’ll still think, ‘This could be me.'”
Those most affected by Hamlin’s injury start with the player and his family, but it also includes teammates, coaches, staff, and those who knew the player, directly and incidentally.
Prioritizing mental health care for those close to him—in Woods’ line of work, he recommends starting with roommates and close friends—can prevent one trauma from escalating into another.
“No one thinks about the individuals who witness this; we put most of our attention on the injured athlete, and rightfully so,” Woods said. “But I like to connect with my roommates and those closest to the injured athlete. These are the ones who see the daily life of that athlete, and they need coping skills: how to communicate, how to serve better, but also not give too much of their energy to something they can’t carry.
“It’s nice to be helpful, but you can really lose yourself in that, too. So it’s good to keep your mental space for your brother or sister on the team.”
For those dealing with tragedy or trauma, Woods recommends participating in spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, serving and volunteering in charitable organizations, or simply turning off the TV to have time to process one’s thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to address the situation with your loved ones and those closest to you, though, he said. Conversations like this can be awkward at times, but they are essential for processing feelings.
“Each of us has different negative experiences that may resurface during this time as well,” Woods said. “Everyone in this field has had their own experience, maybe their own level of PTSD from that moment on.
“For anyone who has been affected by this, it has been an amazing time to stop and really enjoy a moment to be mindful and grateful for life.”
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