Damar Hamlin, a professional football player for the Buffalo Bills, sustained a season-ending injury during a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The injury, which sent Hamlin into cardiac arrest, not only impacted the team, but also raises important questions about the safety of professional and student-athletes. The incident serves as a reminder of the physical toll that playing sports can have on an athlete's body and the potential long-term consequences of repeated head trauma in contact sports like football.
"It is a reminder that injuries are a risk that athletes face, and that more needs to be done to protect the safety and well-being of all athletes, both professional and student-athletes,” Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon and co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said of the incident.
The NFL has implemented various rule changes and protocols aimed at reducing the risk of head injuries, but the potential link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) remains a concern. A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 111 former NFL players whose brains were donated for research, 110 were found to have CTE.
The University of Tennessee athletics department prioritizes the safety of its athletes, taking the necessary precautions to ensure that each athlete is protected from injury in all ways possible. Although the percentages of another injury like Hamlin’s occurring again and particularly at the college level are extremely low, this needs to serve as an eye-opening moment for college and UT football athletic trainers.
With this tragic injury occurring in the NFL, however, we may see a push for more safety equipment used in practice and in games. Helmet “shells” are used in practice to prevent head injuries and there may be a push to allow some players with pasts of head injuries to have clearance to wear them in games. Thicker shoulder pads may be implemented also to prevent the risk of another player suffering from cardiac arrest on the field coming from the impact of a hit.
It is crucial that steps be taken by UT and the NFL to ensure player safety moving forward to prevent an injury like this from occurring again. A new initiative needs to be set to ensure that the safety of the players is the biggest concern.
"We have seen a lot of progress in recent years in terms of player safety, but this incident serves as a reminder that there is still work to be done,” Dr. Brian Hainline, chief medical officer for the NCAA, said.
The injury of Damar Hamlin also highlights the need for better safety measures for student-athletes. The incident is a reminder that the safety and well-being of student-athletes should be a top priority for schools, coaches and governing bodies.
It is important for all stakeholders to take a closer look at the safety of sports and make changes where necessary to protect the safety and well-being of all athletes.
In recent years, there has been a push to make football and other contact sports safer, with changes made to rules, equipment and protocols in an effort to reduce the risk of injuries. The NFL has implemented new rules to protect players from helmet-to-helmet hits, and has also increased funding for research into head injuries. The league also has a "Play Smart. Play Safe." initiative that focuses on player safety and health, which includes initiatives such as the Head Health Challenge, aimed at advancing diagnosis, treatment and prevention of traumatic brain injuries.
Furthermore, some manufacturers have developed new technology, such as sensors within the helmet that can detect the magnitude and location of hits to the head, which can aid in the diagnosis and management of concussions. These technologies have also been adopted by some college and high school teams as well, in order to better protect student-athletes.
However, despite the advancements in technology and rule changes, incidents like the injury of Damar Hamlin serve as a reminder that more needs to be done to protect the safety of all athletes.