As NFL star Damar Hamlin suffers a cardiac arrest – the 4 signs you need to know

NFL star Damar Hamlin is in a critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills player collapsed on the field after being tackled during Monday night’s game.


Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after being tackled during the game last nightCredit: Instagram/Damar Hamlin
The Buffalo Bills players react to Damar Hamlin (being injured making a tackled against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half of play at Paycor Stadium on Monday


The Buffalo Bills players react to Damar Hamlin (being injured making a tackled against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half of play at Paycor Stadium on MondayCredit: Rex

Hamlin initially got up after the play and then collapsed onto the ground, with medics rushing onto the field to treat him.

Players and coaches from both the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals were visibly shaken as emergency responders tended to Hamlin.

But what causes a cardiac arrest and what are the signs you need to know?

Experts at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) state that a cardiac arrest will usually happen without warning.

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If someone is in cardiac arrest they will:

  1. collapse suddenly
  2. will be unconscious
  3. will be unresponsive
  4. won’t be breathing or breathing normally – not breathing normally may mean they’re making gasping noises.

Without getting treatment straight away, the person will die and if you see someone having cardiac arrest you should phone 999 immediately and start CPR, the experts said.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said: “CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest.

“Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present.

“We need everyone to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.”

What causes cardiac arrest?

There are different causes of the illness and the BHF says that one of these is abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).

Guidance states that this happens when the electrical activity of the heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping, Instead, it quivers or ‘fibrillates’.

The charity adds that the main causes of cardiac arrest are:

  • a heart attack (caused by coronary heart disease)
  • cardiomyopathy and some inherited heart conditions
  • congenital heart disease
  • heart valve disease
  • acute myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

It could also be caused by:

  • electrocution
  • a drug overdose
  • a severe haemorrhage (known as hypovolaemic shock) – losing a large amount of blood
  • hypoxia – caused by a severe drop in oxygen levels. 

How to perform CPR

Step 1 – Shake and shout

First things, first… check for danger and anything that could put you at risk.

Gently shake the person who’s unconscious and try to get them talking.

If you’re on your own shout for help but don’t leave the person.

Step 2 – Check breathing

A person suffering a cardiac arrest won’t be breathing.

Keeping their head back check for signs they are breathing.

They include:

  • regular chest movements
  • listening for breathing
  • feeling for breath against your cheek

Look and listen for no more than ten seconds.

If you’re not sure, assume they’re NOT breathing.

Open their airway, by putting your hand on their forehead and gently tilting their head back.

Lift the person’s chin using two fingers of your other hand.

If you’re certain they’re breathing put them in the recovery position and dial 999.

Step 3 – Call 999

If someone isn’t breathing, get someone nearby to dial 999.

And ask if there’s a public access defibrillator available.

If there’s no one to help, call 999 then start CPR.

Step 4 – Give 30 chest compressions

Kneel next to the person.

Place the heel of one hand in the middle of their chest and the your other hand on top, and interlock your fingers.

Using straight arms, press down into the breast bone firmly and smoothly, so the chest is pressed down by 5-6cms.

Release and repeat at a rate of around two per second.

Give 30 chest compressions.

Step 5 – Two rescue breaths

Open the person’s airway, tilt back their forehead and lift their chin.

Pinch their nose.

And take a normal breath, make a seal around their mouth and breathe out.

You should see the person’s chest rise and fall as you do it.

Repeat twice – the two breaths should take no longer than five seconds.

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Step 6 – Repeat

Keep repeating 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until paramedics arrive.

If you would rather not give rescue breaths, call 999 and continue with chest compressions, it’s better than doing nothing.

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