When Trauma Interrupts Normalcy on the Football Field

Many of us watched Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin tackle a receiver on Monday Night Football and then after standing up, collapsed with a sudden cardiac arrest. As we watched the officials, players and coaches witness what was perceived as a typical football injury to a life-threatening episode we quickly grasped the intense level of fear, worry and stress responses that were permeating their whole being. Their eyes, facial expressions, body language and actions revealed the extent of the trauma that they felt as they experienced extensive and incomprehensible tragedy.

Thankfully, the early news from sources in the hospital have been hopeful that Damar has been making gradual improvement in his ability to breathe on his own. His family is feeling some relief and a level of hope that he is making gradual progress. I have prayed for his recovery and millions of Americans have done the same. This episode made an international impact on our world because of its public nature.

I think this whole story reveals how quickly trauma can stop any of us. This kind of tragedy creates a strange sense of collective community emotion as the situation moves from intense trauma to shared compassion. We watched these powerful athletes in complete emotional disarray praying together, sharing together and finding solace in each other. We saw opposite team members hugging. We saw coaches talking about the needs of their players and insisting that they not even consider playing the rest of a nationally televised game due to their trauma.

There were fans who were shocked, not knowing what to say or do as they wandered out of the stadium. We witnessed the NFL postpone the game indefinitely, currently suggesting that the rest of the entire NFL schedule be changed to figure out how to maintain the season for the fans and teams. 

Another rather amazing phenomenon is Damar’s GoFundMe page that was designed to provide toys for kids. His original goal when he started this page was to raise $2500 for toys for kids which has since grown to fund camps and other activities for children. After this event and as a way to support Damar’s dreams for kids, over 200,000 individuals have donated over $6,000,000 to his fund. Imagine the impact this will have in the lives of children. I am sure he will be shocked when he realizes how people have expressed their care for him through this incredible outpouring of support.

A trauma like this can impact us by stopping us in our tracks and re-evaluating our priorities. It also has the capacity to unite us to pray, to love and to create amazing potential for compassionate care for each other. As much as we are all concerned for Damar’s health and wish him a complete recovery, we have also watched the world around him respond to his and the team’s trauma with powerful, empathetic emotion that has led to a very large community of benevolent caregivers. As horrific as this trauma has been, we have paused life, expanded our awareness and become compelling forces of help and hope to him, his family and to each other! Pretty amazing!

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