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Rapid Response: Paramedics get ROSC as world watches NFL player’s on-field treatment

When Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in cardiac arrest, he received out-of-hospital BLS and ALS care from team personnel and EMS before transport to the hospital


Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed during Monday Night Football. He received on-field treatment from team medical personnel and EMS.

AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper

What happened: Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field Monday evening after tackling an opposing player during a nationally televised football game. Shocked announcers attempted to explain the unfolding medical emergency as millions watched on TV and social media.

Hamlin, 24, had briefly stood up after the tackle before falling to the turf. Athletic trainers and team medical personnel rushed onto the field to assess and treat the player. An ambulance and paramedics were summoned to assist in Hamlin’s treatment. As a subdued crowd watched from the stands, commentators explained to television viewers that Hamlin was receiving CPR, an AED had been used, and that Hamlin was initially lifted from the ground and then lowered back onto the ground.

After about 25 minutes of on-scene care, Hamlin was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

A statement from the Buffalo Bills reported that Hamlin was sedated, in critical condition and receiving further treatment. At the time of this writing, no additional information is available about Hamlin’s condition or the specific treatment he received from paramedics on the field, in the ambulance or at the hospital.

Hamlin, his family, friends and teammates are in our thoughts as we seek to understand what happened to him. We are also grateful to his teammates who summoned medical personnel as well as the medical staff and EMS professionals who cared for him and the team continuing his care.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest reminders

Hamlin’s collapse and pulselessness is a tragic reminder that cardiac arrest isn’t just a condition experienced by older people or people with underlying medical conditions. Hamlin’s collapse, like the on-pitch collapse of professional soccer player Christian Erikson in 2021, is an opportunity to learn and educate.

Here are five key points about out-of-hospital cardiac arrest to consider as we receive and process news about Hamlin in the hours and days to come.

1. Recognize that basic life support works

BLS is the best immediate treatment for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. In Hamlin’s emergency, other football players and game officials acted immediately to call for help. Team medical personnel initiated BLS care with chest compressions and AED use, while also taking the next step to summon in-stadium ALS, activating the local 911 system.

2. Treat what you find

As we might expect, social media users immediately began to speculate on the cause of Hamlin’s arrest. Though the underlying cause might be important to his outcome, determining the underlying cause should not interrupt or interfere with the provision of BLS. Response to treatment and other diagnostic information guides paramedics in the initiation of advanced cardiac life support treatments.

3. Educate the community

Tens of millions of people have watched and read news reports about Hamlin’s collapse and treatment with CPR. This is a moment for EMS organizations, without being macabre or disrespectful, to educate their community about cardiac arrest and CPR. Key messages include:

  • Anyone can learn CPR and here’s how to learn;

  • 911 call-takers will guide you through the process;

  • AEDs should be present at every sporting and community event; and

  • AEDs can be used by anyone.

4. Refresh cardiac arrest co-response with team personnel

If you haven’t recently completed a joint training session with team personnel at the events where your EMS organization provides standby services, schedule it today. Do a quick refresher with your EMS personnel of procedures to access the chest and airway of a football, hockey or lacrosse player who is wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. Also review the ingress and egress routes to reach basketball courts, ice rinks and athletic fields in your service area.

5. Consider after-care resources for lay rescuers, bystanders

Jarring images of football players crying and beset with worry make it clear that cardiac arrest and CPR are traumatic for family, friends, teammates and other bystanders who witness the incident. They might be experiencing a range of emotions from helplessness to guilt.

There is increasing awareness among EMS professionals that cardiac arrest care continues after ROSC, not only for the patient, but also the witnesses and lay rescuers. Partner with other healthcare organizations, social service organizations and religious leaders in your community to connect witnesses and lay rescuers with counseling and survivor support resources.

Additional resources for cardiac arrest care

Here are a few more EMS1 articles about cardiac arrest care.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions by emailing him at