In the recent tragic event during the widely telecast and viewed final game of the 2022-2023 football season, when Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, what the players witnessed was traumatic and holds the potential to cause PTSD. The potential for PTSD exists not only among those closest to the event but also among other viewers on and off the field.
Trauma is the base cause for almost all mental health issues we see in our country and around the world. Most of the research on trauma in the field was done with children in what is known as the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Trauma can occur and accrue at all ages and depending on the severity of the witnessed or experienced event, the negative results will vary but will also remain ever present.
Reality Is More Intense Than TV Show Recreations
The collapse which required the administering of CPR, which is not what it’s like when recreated on TV shows. CPR is a violent push to essentially bring someone back to life. So, yes, the spectators saw the moment of death, and everyone experienced the moment viscerally. The shock and trauma of the event spread to each layer of the onion. From the coaches, staff, and players to the fans in the stadium, to the commentators who found it very difficult to speak of the possible outcome of what they witnessed, and finally the people at home who did not have the support of all the on-site people. We are still an emotionally raw and vulnerable population with all the societal issues we’ve experienced in the past few years, so the timing of this high-level trauma was felt more deeply. I am so grateful that Damar has survived this event, but the trauma of it will live on in him as well as thousands of others. The potential for subsequent mental health issues for Damar as well as those who witnessed the event is high.
Mental Health Specialists Needed Sooner Rather Than Later
I was recently a guest on the We’re All A little “Crazy” #SameHere podcast with my friend, Super Bowl Champion, CBS College Football Analyst, Aaron Taylor (I’ve included the link to the podcast below.) Aaron made a profound statement about how he thought it would be great to learn from the tragedy and have a mental health specialist on hand for immediate conversation on air and not days later for those who were frozen in shock, unable to move away from their TVs.
While the trauma Damar experienced was terrible, it happened and that can’t be changed. So how do we look for the teaching moments or, for lack of better words, a silver lining? What I saw in a rally cry and signs of respect gave me hope that our country is still united and has a moral compass. We saw grown men cry for their brother. We saw players, coaches and a nation moved to prayer. We saw a massive corporate machine make the right decision to stop the game. Very few videos were shared on social media out of respect which today is miraculous and unheard of. Several thousand people thought it better not to share the suffering of others. We saw hundreds of thousands of people donating money to the Go Fund Me campaign that Damar set up years ago to raise money for children in his hometown. We saw the best of what this nation can be, and I hope that we all look for and hang on for dear life to the positive aspects that come out of this very traumatic event.
To read further about the psychological effects resulting from traumatic sporting events similar to the Damar Hamlin collapse, click here: