Damar Hamlin's Injury May Cause More Parents to Seriously Weigh the Risks of Football
"You may lose a limb, but you never thought you would lose a life." -- Michael Irvin
This quote from Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin was one of the most thought-provoking statements I read while looking at constant news updates on the condition of Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin. After seeing Hamlin's scary collapse during the Bills' NFL Monday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, it's still hard to grasp that we almost witnessed him die on the field.
This, no doubt, is the most terrifying game situation I have seen in all of my years watching the NFL since the 1980s. Football fans in my generation who grew up during this decade remember the horrific injury that Washington Redskins' quarterback Joe Theismann suffered after a brutal hit from New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. This game was also a Monday Night Football showcase, and fans in the stands and those watching on television saw Theismann's right leg snap like a toothpick with one bone piercing through his skin after Taylor landed on him. Fast-forwarding to today, three months before Hamlin's heart stopped in live play, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a head cranial concussion during Week 4 of the NFL season in a game against the Bengals. Watching Tagovailoa wincing in pain on the ground with his fingers and arms locked was just as traumatizing as viewing Hamlin lay unconscious after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.
NPR reported that some doctors believe Hamlin experienced commotio cordis, which is caused by a fierce blow to the chest resulting in cardiac arrest, but the encouraging news for Hamlin now is that he is conscious and on the road to recovery while still in critical condition. When I read that one of his first questions was who won the game on Monday night, I thought that it was truly a miracle he did not suffer any serious brain damage while the Bills' medical staff administered CPR before he was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
As I've thought about the severity of Hamlin's injury, I would not be surprised if more parents of young boys keep them out of football. This issue was addressed in the season 5 episode of "Black-ish" titled "FriDre Night Lights" back in 2019. In the storyline, Andre "Dre" Johnson is thrilled that his middle son Jack makes his youth football squad as a punt returner, but Jack's mother Rainbow, who is a doctor, immediately shuts down the idea of him playing due to her concerns about concussions and CTE. Rainbow reluctantly decides to let Jack suit up, and everything appears to be going well at his first game until Dre strikes up a conversation with two fathers in the stands who explain to him why they did not allow their sons to try out for the team, mainly citing the violence of the game. Dre and Rainbow eventually panic as they watch the hard hitting of 12-year-olds, and Dre frantically runs on the field and carries Jack off during the first quarter. When they get home, Dre and Rainbow explain to their frustrated son that the sport is too dangerous but end up letting him play flag football as a compromise.
The same year "FriDre Night Lights" aired, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported that participation in football declined by nearly 31,000, its lowest drop since the 1999-2000 school year. Overall, this decrease is currently not threatening the popularity of football as the NFSHSA data also showed that more schools added "traditional 11-man football teams." However, there is rising apprehension among parents that tackle football is just becoming too rough. For the past several years we have learned more about CTE and head trauma, two of the primary reasons many parents will not let their sons play. Hamlin's chest injury is sure to heighten more unease, and I'm sure many are wondering if he will resume his NFL career.
In the meantime, the heartfelt prayers that Hamlin and his family have received from people around the world asking God to intervene for his physical healing is awe-inspiring.
I sincerely believe that, as James 5:16 says, "(t)he effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Let's continue to fervently uplift Hamlin as he is making great progress. He's only 24 and he has much life ahead of him beyond football.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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