Column: Where’s the doctor?

Jake Pfeiffer, News Editor & Copy Editor

The stunning injury that left Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in cardiac arrest on Jan. 2 rightfully gripped the minds of millions, football fans or not. 

Those tuned into the game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on ESPN saw the stunned reaction of the players scattered around Hamlin, followed by hours of discussion of the horror everyone had just seen.

I watched a fair amount of this coverage after the injury, and was left with one question: where are the doctors? 

CNN reported that Scott Van Pelt, the host of ESPN’s SportsCenter, chose not to feature any medical professionals on his show in order to avoid speculation. 

The issue? Humans speculate.

According to CBS News, within minutes of the injury, claims that Hamlin’s cardiac arrest was caused by COVID-19 vaccines emerged.

This situation is certainly a dramatic example of why having medical professionals available to comment on sports injuries is important, but nevertheless it shows what can happen when we don’t have professionals analyze an injury. 

A five minute conversation with a medical professional would not have taken away from ESPN’s coverage at all. Making sure people know what could’ve happened (and that what did happen has nothing to do with a vaccine) has value, and it shouldn’t be neglected.

Of course, most people crying about vaccines probably wouldn’t be convinced by a doctor, but a conversation with a professional would help the small percentage of people who could be swayed.

Knowing the cause, or at least the possible cause, of an injury helps everyone though. 

Not knowing something is scary- uncertainty is uncomfortable and can lead to significant amounts of fear.

For the millions watching ESPN, what caused Hamlin to go into cardiac arrest was completely unknown. 

Viewers may have asked themselves, was it vaccines? (No, it wasn’t, stop it.) Can this happen to anyone? Is my kid gonna die the next time they play their sport? Can my heart stop on the field tomorrow?

Fear abounds from the unknown. Having a medical professional come on to explain what happened, how unlikely it was and why you don’t need to be afraid for anything except for Hamlin’s life could have eased the minds of millions.

According to Dr. Brian Sutterer, a physiatrist who analyzes sports injuries on his YouTube channel, Hamlin’s heart likely stopped due to Commotio Cordis, a rare condition that stops the heart with a hard enough impact at an exact moment in the cycle of a heart beat.

And it took him less than three minutes to explain it.

Even in cases of less severe injuries, it would take minimal effort to simply ask a medical professional how an injury happened, but it would benefit viewers immensely even in just understanding what happened. 

Having a medical voice on a broadcast for even a few minutes can have immense benefits. So really, where are the doctors?