How will the future of football be affected by Hamlin’s injury?
On January 2, 2023, the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Buffalo Bills as part of the NFL’s game of the week. It had major playoff implications as these two top AFC teams competed for the number one seed in the playoffs, but things didn’t go as planned. In the first quarter of the game in Cincinnati, Damar Hamlin, a 24-year-old Bills safety, tackled the Bengals’ receiver, Tee Higgins, taking him to the ground. Hamlin stood up after the tackle and took two steps before collapsing to the turf. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on national television, and after six minutes he was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Hospital. After this, the coaches, players, and referees decided that the game couldn’t be played that night, and the NFL canceled it.
After what happened to Hamlin, the fans, players, coaches, and team owners realized how something widely regarded as an awful situation could create positive change. Hamlin started a GoFundMe page in 2020 to raise $2,500 for a toy drive. Since his injury, it has raised over nine million dollars. Even if fans didn’t like the Buffalo Bills, they still showed support for Hamlin. The week after his injury, the teams playing wore shirts with the phrase “Pray for Damar” to honor Hamlin. If it wasn’t for the medical treatment given by the Bills and Bengals’ training staff, he may not have survived.
It’s important to have training staff for almost every professional sport because they benefit a player’s performance. Scott Thomas, the Thomas Jefferson athletic director for the past 17 years, still deals with his football-related injuries. He spoke about how the development of technology has helped improve player safety. “I believe with the new knowledge and technology we have today, [it] now shows that with certain injuries, players shouldn’t have been playing.” Athletic directors now know when a player can’t play because of a better understanding of the human body and revised rules that promote player safety.
According to Statistics and Data, 74.5% of Americans follow football, making it the most watched sport in the U.S.. Due to this, many young fans watching at home dream of becoming professional players. However, due to many bodily injuries that players endure for eight months a year, many parents of young players are asking, “is it worth it?” Matt Nicolo, the TJ Business and Marketing teacher, played for eight years in Southern California and is still affected by his injuries. Having a young son and knowing about the Damar Hamlin incident is complicated for Nicolo. “I want my son to learn camaraderie, the aspects of team ethics, and trying to achieve a goal together…but when it comes to the physical toll on his body, I don’t know if I want him to play football.” Football is very popular across the country, but if parents don’t think it’s safe for their kids to play, many fans wonder how it will affect the game’s future.