Some doctors believe that commotio cordis — a “concussion of the heart” — may be responsible for the collapse of Damar Hamlin on the field during an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals Monday.

Hamlin is hospitalized in critical condition and has been placed on a ventilator in an effort to allow his lungs to rest after he suffered cardiac arrest, his uncle told E! Online Tuesday.

Hamlin collided with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the game’s first quarter, took a couple of steps and then collapsed. The Buffalo Bills tweeted Tuesday that Hamlin, 24, had suffered cardiac arrest following a hit on the field. It took about 10 minutes to resuscitate him as fans and players alike watched in fearful silence.

Now experts are speculating that Hamlin was felled by the rare condition, which occurs when a blow to the chest happens to hit during the split second dubbed the T-wave, when the heart muscle cells are “regrouping in preparation for the next contraction,” per an old explanation of the condition in the Deseret News. The hit disrupts electrical activity, which can kick off ventricular fibrillation, which can cause heart attacks and cardiac arrest.

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As early as 1995, the Deseret News reported that the rare medical condition was responsible for at least 25 deaths in young athletes.

According to NPR, “While Hamlin’s team and family have yet to confirm exactly what happened, many of the doctors following his case online have narrowed it down to one likely cause: commotio cordis (kuh-MOH-dee-oh KOR-dis).”

The article said that “it most commonly occurs in sports settings but is rare overall, with only 20 to 30 cases reported each year, according to Dr. Christopher Madias, the director of the New England Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Tufts Medical Center.”

Commotio cordis and its aftermath has nothing to do with the health of the athlete. The only thing that matters is the blow and its timing in a narrow window of 20 to 30 milliseconds when the heart’s beat cycle is at risk.

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Arrhythmia specialist Dr. Khalid Aljabri tweeted an explanation of the condition, noting it is “not associated with pre-existing heart damage or COVID.”

 A sharp tap can create a heart concussion, though it’s most common when the sport involves a projectile, like a hockey puck or a ball that hits just right. According to BuzzFeed, “Published research shows that commotio cordis has been reported among players of many sports, including baseball, lacrosse, softball, martial arts, rugby, football, cricket and hockey — despite the use of protective equipment like chest protectors or softer balls, although the risk is likely lower with these precautions in place.”

“I’ve been watching football my whole life and I’ve never seen this happen. This is so incredibly rare, it’s like winning the Powerball or getting hit by lightning twice,” Dr. Grant Simons, a cardiac electrophysiologist and chief of heart rhythm services at Hackensack University Medical Center, who watched the Bengals-Bills game live, told Buzzfeed. “There’s about a 30th of a second that the heart is even vulnerable to this. So not only does the hit have to be in the right spot on the heart and the right amount of force, it also has to be perfectly timed.”

The Deseret News on Tuesday shared the experience of a Utah State University basketball player who suffered a similar cardiac arrest 10 years ago and had to be revived during practice. Danny Berger credits swift medical attention and prayer for his survival.

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