In high-impact sports like soccer, injuries are inevitable. But few medical episodes are as harrowing as Buffalo Bills safety Dumar Hamlin collapsing from cardiac arrest during a game this week, and they’re sure to stick in the minds of NFL players hitting the field this weekend.
Detroit Lions running back Dandle Swift told reporters in the locker room that he was “scary.” interview“You see injuries week after week, and things like that talk about life-or-death situations.
According to sports psychologists, athletes must be highly skilled physically and mentally to play professionally. Whether it’s nerves on the Olympic stage or stressors in your personal life, you need to be able to compartmentalize your emotions so you can focus on your sport.
Some NFL players say they’re having trouble doing it after Hamlin went down Monday night.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Curry Campbell told the New York Times that the blow Hamlin received before his heart stopped made him question whether football was worth the risk.
“I’ve had hundreds of tackles like that and I keep thinking I’m fine. But what if I’m not fine next time?” Campbell said Wednesday.
Doctors have not clarified exactly what happened to Hamlin, but they believe he experienced a rare phenomenon called a heart tremor, in which a dull force hit his chest at a very specific window in his heartbeat cycle, disrupting his rhythm. The condition could be fatal, but the Buffalo Bills reported Thursday that Hamlin is showing “significant” improvement and appears to be “neurologically intact.” .
John Heil, a clinical and sports psychologist in Roanoke, Virginia, said that the extreme rarity of cordis should be a comfort to NFL players.
Still, just because it was rare doesn’t mean athletes can rest easy, he added.
“It’s a good logical argument, but the logical argument doesn’t always win over the emotion,” he said.
Heil said it’s important for players to seek support to help them process their feelings. It’s not just about playing well, it’s about safety. In the 1980s, while he was studying injuries on his University of Utah football team, a player died suddenly of heart disease. Injuries spiked among the grieving player’s teammates the following week, Heil said.
But asking for help isn’t always easy.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “The sport is so ‘manly’ that we’re taught to hide our emotions.” told reporters Wednesday.
“I think it’s a myth,” he said. “Talking about how you feel, talking about things that affect you mentally and physically is the most manly thing to do, because it takes a lot of courage to talk about those things.”
Still, football culture has become more sensitive to players’ mental health needs over the years, said 82-year-old Bill Triplett, a 10-year veteran of the NFL.
In 1971, Triplett was a running back for the Detroit Lions and became the only NFL player to die on the field during a game when his close friend and teammate Chuck Hughes died of heart disease. There were 62 seconds left in the game when Hughes grabbed his chest and fell face down to the ground. After an ambulance drove him off the field, the game resumed in front of a shocked crowd.
“It was a given,” said Triplett.
He said he ended his football career less than a year after Hughes’ death, and he can sympathize with current players who question football’s risks.
“It was such a shock,” Triplett said of Hughes’ death. “I quickly decided it wasn’t worth it.”
Built-in support system — if the player chooses to use it
Elite athletes have great mental performance skills that help them push past distractions, but they are often not taught how to process their emotions after the competition is over.
“They’ve been told all their lives, ‘compartmentize it.’ When you put on a helmet, once you cross the line, everything else in your life disappears,” said a sports psychologist who provides NFL players with sports psychology services. , says Mark Aoyagi, co-director of sports and performance psychology at the university. Denver. “How do you pick them up and deal with them when you come back from the field?”
“They’ve been told all their lives, ‘compartmentize.’ When you put on a helmet, once you cross the line, everything else in your life disappears.”
Sports psychologist Mark Aoyagi
Aoyagi advises athletes to identify what they are feeling and recognize the intensity of their emotions. She also encourages conversations with her teammates. Whether she’s talking to an entire team or a small group, she can provide built-in support her system if athletes are open to each other.
Every NFL player has a range of past experiences and coping mechanisms that influence how they feel about the next game after what happened to Hamlin. They may find their ability to play is as strong as ever.
“One of the benefits of fast-moving games is that they tend to grab your attention,” says Heil. “It’s just a matter of jumping in.”