Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is in critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field during an NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The emergency during the game on Monday night sparked an immediate outpouring of well-wishes from fans, commentators and other players, and brought attention back to the dangers of the most popular sport in the country.
“Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals. His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment,” the Bills said in a statement. “He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”
The 24-year-old briefly got to his feet after making what appeared to be a routine tackle on the Bengals’ Tee Higgins with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter but then fell on his back and remained motionless.
According to ESPN, medical personnel administered CPR to Hamlin and also gave him oxygen as they loaded him into an ambulance brought onto the field.
Players from both NFL teams, clearly shaken by what they had witnessed, gathered around Hamlin during the treatment, with many of them kneeling to pray and some crying.
“Tonight’s Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game has been postponed after Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced,” the NFL statement said in a statement.
“Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills.”
Hamlin’s marketing representative, Jordon Rooney, later tweeted: “Update on Damar: His vitals are back to normal and they have put him to sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat. They are currently running tests. We will provide updates as we have them.”
The Bills did not immediately release a statement with details about Hamlin’s condition or the postponement, though they tweeted: “The thoughts and prayers of all of Bills Mafia are supporting you, Damar.”
The Bengals released a brief statement on Twitter: “The game has been postponed. We will provide further information as details become available.”
American football, one of the most violent team sports, and its organisation the NFL, have faced growing concerns in recent years over the concussions players suffer on the field.
While injuries are common in the sport, several observers said it was the first time they had seen an ambulance enter the field to treat a player.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said former quarterback Kurt Warner on NFL Radio.
Former NFL player Drew Brees took to Twitter to express his concern for Hamlin, saying he represented “every one of us and every teammate we’ve ever had”.
The NFL Players Association said they had been in contact with players from both teams.
“The NFLPA and everyone in our community is praying for Damar Hamlin. We have been in touch with Bills and Bengals players, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and well-being,” the union said on Twitter.
“Please pray for our brother,” tweeted Bills quarterback Josh Allen.