During the Buffalo Bills’ Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, player Damar Hamlin fell into sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field.
The 24-year-old was injured in the first quarter of the game after making a tackle. Despite initially seeming fine, Hamlin collapsed at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium. According to multiple fans who witnessed the incident, they didn’t realize anything was wrong.
“Honestly, it didn’t even register that the play was any different from any other play. Everyone was cheering. It just seemed like a normal thing. I had good seats and could see it clearly, and it didn’t really stand out at all,” Bengals fan Lawrence Holland told PEOPLE Magazine. “I thought maybe he had fallen, or maybe he had hurt his leg or something. I didn’t think it was anything serious.”
However, Bengals fan RJ McNair, who was sitting in the lower bowl of the stadium, reported that once the medical examiners showed up to evaluate Hamlin, the stadium began to realize the seriousness of the collapse.
“You could see the looks on everyone’s faces on the field. That’s when I knew this was a very bad thing,” McNair recalled. “The crowd went from being really loud to really quiet. You could hear a pin drop. It was this collective realization that ‘oh s–t,’ he’s really hurt.”
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McNair added, “We’re not Bills fans, but everyone was being very respectful. People were either hugging or praying or just watching silently. We may have wanted to win the game, but not like that. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Damar Hamlin has since been transferred to Buffalo where he continues to show improvements
Hamlin was escorted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. His family went on to release a statement on Tuesday morning, which informed fans that the athlete suffered a cardiac arrest on the field. His heartbeat was reportedly restored on the field.
As of Monday, January 9, Hamlin is seeing significant improvement in his state. UCMC doctor Timothy Pritts says his neurological condition appears to be intact, and he has since spoke with his teammates and returned to social media to thank the world for their prayers.
“When we talk about neurologically intact, it’s a very gross term of big motor movements and following command,” Dr. William Knight, another doctor treating Hamlin, explained to ESPN. “When we talk about the finer things that make us human — cognition, emotion, speech, language, etc. — we’re looking forward to learning more about that soon.”
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