Lubbock doctor’s perspective on Hamlin injury

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:34 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:43 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The football world is still reeling over the collapse of a Buffalo Bills player in Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The game was postponed after medics rushed to the field to give Damar Hamlin CPR. So what happened to make him fall after he got up from the tackle?

A Lubbock man is keeping a watchful eye on this because he is connected to the incident, personally and professionally.

Even sitting down, you know Scott Shurmur is a big guy. At 6′ 5″, football is in his DNA. He was a lineman at the University of Tulsa. He also watched his dad, Defensive Coordinator Fritz Shurmur, coach the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl in ‘96. They won that game, and Scott has the Super Bowl ring to prove it. In Scott’s office today, he keeps a football schedule for the Buffalo Bills on the wall because his nephew, Kyle Shurmur is on staff there.

Dr. Scott Shurmur is also a Texas Tech Physician, a cardiologist with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

He says when Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, several things went through his mind. “First, I thought he might have torn his aorta. Sometimes blunt trauma can do that. I was worried about a C-one fracture. It’s what happened to Reggie Brown in 1997.”

That spinal cord injury ended Brown’s career with the Detroit Lions, but Dr. Shurmur adds, “That wasn’t the case, either. So clearly, it was a cardiac arrest.”

He says, of the three, cardiac arrest is actually the best option, especially in young athletes at a big event where paramedics are close at hand and CPR is prompt. So what made Hamlin’s heart stop after what seemed to be a routine blow to the chest?

Dr. Shurmur says the speculation is a condition called Commotio Cordis.

He explains, “That’s a condition in which a blow is struck to the chest. It doesn’t have to be severe, or forceful at all. It just has to be exactly the right moment in the cardiac cycle, where it changes the electricity and sends the heart into a non-life-sustaining rhythm. It’s most common actually in young, recreational, little league type athletes.”

Although rare, he says it’s the reason some little leaguers wear protective chest gear.

But in Hamlin’s case, Commotio Cordis is the best guess until his doctors can learn if there might be an underlying heart issue, which occasionally shows up later in life.

You may remember Matt Nader, a high school football star in Austin with ties to Lubbock because both of his parents attended medical school at Texas Tech. That training was lucky for Matt when he collapsed on the field during his senior year. Both his parents took turns giving him CPR for five long minutes until an ambulance arrived. Later it was learned that Matt had a heart defect. He lives with a pacemaker today and encourages schools to keep an AED or portable defibrillator on hand at every sporting event.

Dr. Shurmur agrees. That is key to saving lives.

He says, “What any parent of any recreational athlete should know is if there’s any risk of any collision or even significant physical exertion, have an AED on site. That’s the most important thing.”