Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who has been cleared to resume football, said Tuesday that his cardiac arrest during an NFL game in January was caused by a concussion.
During the first quarter of the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after a tackle and appeared to be hit in the chest by a helmet.
A concussion can occur when severe trauma to the chest disrupts the electrical charge of the heart and causes dangerous fibrillation.
“I died on national television in front of the whole world,” Hamlin said in his first interview since the injury. “I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. I know a bunch of people who have lost loved ones in their lives. I know what that feels like. That’s the greatest blessing—I still have my people, and my people still have me.”
The 25-year-old has been participating in voluntary offseason workouts this week at the Bills’ practice facility in Orchard Park, New York, according to the team.
“He’s completely exonerated,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane told reporters. “Hey, gentlemen.”
Hamlin said he was lucky to have excellent medical staff who “treated me like a child.”
The safety said his heart was still in the game, and he announced he was returning to the NFL.
“I just want to tell people that fear is a choice. You can go on about something without an answer and no idea what’s at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “You can feel anxious – you can feel anything – but you just put your right foot in front of your left and move on. I want to support that.”
Beane said Hamlin met with three different experts during the offseason, and they all agreed the player “is clearly going to be able to return to full activity like everyone else coming back from an injury.”
“(Hamlin’s) came back in a good headspace and got him back,” Bean added.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the team is happy to have Hamlin back.
“We’re super excited for Damar. He’s stepping up here. From a physical standpoint, he’s been cleared,” McDermott said.
“We’re going to provide all the spiritual help we can from a mind, body and spirit standpoint, so happy for him because he’s able to tick some of those boxes at this point and we’re moving forward in time.”
According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, athletes who have recovered from concussions may return to competition if no underlying heart abnormalities are detected through testing.
Hamlin likely underwent a number of tests, including electrocardiograms and echocardiograms, before doctors allowed him to return to training.
“It basically means a couple of things. One is that his heart function is back to normal. He has no underlying problems with the anatomy of the heart itself, no underlying electrical problems, so that’s the most important — they’ve had it in the past. The way to find out in three and a half months is to do a lot of testing,” CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on “CNN News Central.”