On January 2, 2023 during NFL Monday Night Football, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the football field after an un-noteworthy tackle, shocking and saddening NFL players and fans around the world (Broaddus et al., 2023). In the days that followed, we learned that Hamlin experienced a cardiac arrest and was resuscitated on the field.
The incident has sparked much interest in learning how often people experience cardiac arrest while playing sports. So, Truveta Research dug into the data to see what we could learn.
Using a subset of Truveta data, we found more than 90,000 emergency or inpatient encounters related to sport injuries since 2016. We included injuries associated with five sports in this analysis: 1) football, 2) basketball, 3) baseball, 4) softball, and 5) soccer.
We defined cardiac arrest using the Truveta Library, condensing 35 ICD10 and SNOMED codes into a single definition. We calculated the rate of cardiac arrests that occurred per 10,000 emergency/inpatient encounters.
Cardiac arrests during sports are rare. In Truveta data, fewer than 1 cardiac arrest occurred in every 10,000 emergency or inpatient sport injury encounters. These incidents were most often associated with basketball, with fewer related to football. There are likely differences by demographic factors, such as age and sex. More research is needed to fully understand athletes who are most at risk for a cardiac arrest during sport-related activities and what disparities exist in treatment outcomes and pre-existing conditions that affect these rates. It’s also important to note that we are only reporting emergency and inpatient encounters; these are severe injuries and do not include all sports injuries.
As many other sources have cited, the most important way to improve patient outcomes when cardiac arrest occurs is immediate care (The Sports Institute, 2023). Damar Hamlin’s life was saved by the skilled medical personnel and necessary equipment available at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium (Friese, 2023). Access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and staff trained in CPR can be lifesaving if a cardiac arrest occurs.
These are preliminary research findings and not peer reviewed. Data are constantly changing and updating. These findings are consistent with data pulled January 11, 2023.
Broaddus, A., Close, D., Wolfe, E., Hanna, J., & De la Fuente, H. (2023, January 3). Bills player Damar Hamlin still sedated a day after collapsing from a cardiac arrest on the field, uncle tells CNN. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/02/football/damar-hamlin-buffalo-bills-collapse/index.html
Friese, G. (2023, January 3). Rapid Response: Paramedics get ROSC as world watches NFL player’s on-field treatment. https://www.ems1.com/cardiac-arrest/articles/rapid-response-paramedics-get-rosc-as-world-watches-nfl-players-on-field-treatment-u9VMvdAoIe01kDgJ/
The Sports Institute. (2023). Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Know the Danger. https://thesportsinstitute.com/sudden-cardiac-arrest-know-the-danger/