Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park is anticipated to be the loudest venue during opening preseason week for this reason: the stirring return of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who captured the heart of the nation with his recovery from cardiac arrest.
What Happened to Damar Hamlin? A Timeline
Hamlin sustained a shoulder-to-the-chest hit from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during their Jan. 3, 2023, Monday Night Football game.
Though Hamlin got up momentarily, he suddenly collapsed and became motionless.
Hamlin was immediately given CPR on the field, and the contest between the Bills and Bengals was ultimately called off. Hamlin was rushed to the University of Cincinnati medical center, where he was deemed to be in critical condition.
Hamlin eventually regained consciousness and slowly got his oxygen back to normalcy. He was discharged on Jan. 11, more than a week after his collision.
Since that time, Hamlin has been revealed to have sustained commotio cordis — a condition where the heart stops after a powerful impact to the chest by blunt force at a precise point during the heart rhythm that disrupts the heartbeat.
According to the American Heart Association, that condition is most common in baseball, softball, hockey, lacrosse, or physical contact with other athletes.
But since his recovery, Hamlin has galvanized an entire nation. He’s passed every necessary milestone on his road to being healthy and was cleared to resume football-related activities in April. He has been a full participant during minicamps and training camp for the Bills.
Hamlin has also been proactive in becoming a voice for AED and CPR in competitive sports, including football. He also helped honor the Buffalo staff who helped save him during the 2023 ESPYs as they were given the Pat Tillman Service Award.
How Is Hamlin Handling the New Scrutiny?
Hamlin is back on the field for the first time in seven months.
While there’s already been a buildup for his return, he’s taken this approach: Staying in the moment.
“Trying to look forward, it just creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of unnecessary feelings,” he said to Buffalo media after the Bills’ “Red and Blue” practice on Aug. 11. “If you stay in the moment, it allows you to process it when you’re there.”
Hamlin additionally admitted to shedding tears the moment he walked back onto his home stadium — this time in full pads for the first time since that MNF game.
All-Pro Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, meanwhile, already plans to join in on the “Bills Mafia” members who will be cheering for Hamlin the moment he returns to the field.
“It’s easy to come in and say, ‘OK, he’s back on the football field.’ But to see him every day living, breathing, laughing, and having a good time is really where you have your eye-opening. Like God is good,” Diggs said via the Associated Press. “Of course, I’m going to be one of the main people cheering for him. From a human standpoint, I’m just happy the guy is alive.”