Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.

On Thursday, Damar Hamlin woke up, and one of the first things he asked was if his team won the game.

The Buffalo Bills safety, Hamlin, suffered cardiac arrest during Monday night’s Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals. He had been unconscious since then, which was a crucial Monday Night Football game that would help determine playoff seeding with the upcoming NFL Playoffs. 

This game would later be part of national news when Hamlin would go and do a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin got up, before stumbling to the ground and not getting back up. 

ESPN would cut to commercials and would show a replay of what transpired before going back to commercials. Once back from commercial the shot now showed the two competing teams forming a circle around Hamlin. 

It was later reported that Hamlin had suffered cardiac arrest and received CPR on the field. The NFL would postpone the game as many people from viewers, fans and players try to process what has happened. 

Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs reportedly visited Hamlin in the hospital following the game and reportedly said to a cop, who eventually let him in, “I need to be there for my teammate.”

The National Football League is the most popular sport in the U.S., but it also happens to be the most violent and physically demanding. 

The NFL, for the most part, has tried to increase safety and prioritize the health and well-being of the players. The league used to promote the physicality of the game, and the big hits that players would take from one another. 

As more information about the severity of concussions and CTE came to light, the league made changes to how tackling should be done. The amount of tackling in practice would decrease. They would change the helmets to be more protective. The NFL would increase the benefits of their retired players. 

Despite pushback initially from fans and players alike to changing the game, these changes arguably had to be made so less serious injuries can occur. But, as many fans and players know, injuries are a part of the game. 

Tua Tagovailoa has had a breakout season as quarterback for the Miami Dolphins this season. He has also been injured multiple times with concussions this season — some that were missed by the medical staff, which allowed him to return to the game. 

It is suspected that Tagovailoa had a concussion on Sept. 25 in a game against the Buffalo Bills. He was seen hitting his head on the ground, getting back up, only to stumble. 

Four days later, Tagovailoa would play the Cincinnati Bengals until he was sacked and would be carted off the field with a concussion. 

Teammates gather around Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) after an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

Tagovailoa would appear to suffer his third concussion of the year after taking a hit in a Christmas  game versus the Green Bay Packers. He remained in the game, but he would throw three interceptions in a loss. 

The NFL and Miami Dolphins faced a lot of scrutiny for missing Tagovailoa’s symptoms of a concussion. The league would later fire the neurotrauma consultant that was involved in evaluating Tagovailoa.

Back on Dec. 4, 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier went for a routine tackle playing against the Cincinnati Bengals. Shazier would land on the ground, flip himself over, but not get up. He was carted off the field. 

Shazier would later be diagnosed with a spinal injury. The injury left him temporarily paralyzed, but six months after the injury that ended his career, he would announce the team’s draft pick of Terrell Edmounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. 

(GQ / Photo Illustration / Icon Sportswire)

While Shazier’s football career was tragically cut short, he is still able to walk and has set up the “Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation.”

While Hamlin remains in the hospital, there have been updates on his condition. 

The 24-year-old has opened his eyes, and seems to be neurologically intact, reports said. There has been a tremendous amount of support to Hamlin after the injury. 

His “The Chasing M’s Foundation Community Toy Drive” has received $7 million in donations, after the injury took place, which initially only had a goal of $2,500. 

The GoFundMe has now been updated to also include costs for Hamlin’s health. Fanatics also announced that all proceeds of Hamlin’s jersey will also be donated to Hamlin’s GoFundMe.

Hamlin is still on a ventilator, but he is able to write messages and hold hands with visiting family members, CNN reported. 

On Thursday night, the NFL declared that the Bills vs. Bengals game will not go on.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Damar Hamlin, his family, and teammates, the Buffalo Bills, as well as the Cincinnati Bengals. 

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