Athletic trainer weighs in after Damar Hamlin's on-field collapse

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A day after Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during Monday night football, players, coaches and trainers are trying to understand why it happened and if it could've been prevented.

It's suggested Hamlin could have gone into cardiac arrest because of a rare phenomenon called commotio cordis. That's because of the way Hamlin was hit.

The Buffalo Bills confirm #3 Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during the Bills-Bengals game. Why the 24-year-old did is still being evaluated, but some say it looks like commotio cordis, which is very rare, especially in football players.

"If you're playing baseball and you take a fastball to the chest at a certain angle when your heartbeat is at a certain position during that T wave, it can happen to anybody, unfortunately," said Allan Prasil, Wheaton College athletic trainer.

The first promising news came in a Bills tweet saying, "His heartbeat was restored on the field."

Commotio cordis causes the heart to go into an abnormal rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

"It's very scary, so if it does occur, you have to have CPR and a defibrillator immediately done within the first 90 seconds of the injury. Every minute after that can be very catastrophic to that athlete," said Prasil. 

Today, the National Athletic Trainers Association told members, "Seeing this unfold may be triggering, stressing or traumatizing. As athletic trainers, we prepare for such circumstances, but hope to never have to use our expertise in an actual incident."

"You're with them daily six to 10 hours a day, with them every day. You build a relationship up with them, so now you have to run in the field and do CPR on guys that you love. It's hard," said Prasil.

Hamlin remains hospitalized in Cincinatti. The chances for recovery remain unknown.

"And it's really going to come down to his underlying strength, his conditioning and how long he was without any oxygen," said Dr. Anthony Cardillo.

Experts advise players wear the proper gear, like a chest protector or rib guards, saying those can help.

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