Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is showing “remarkable improvement” over the past 24 hours, the team said in a statement Thursday morning, although he remains “critically ill” in a Cincinnati ICU nearly three days after suffering a harrowing cardiac arrest on the field that sent shockwaves through the NFL.
Hamlin, a 24-year-old second-year defensive safety, has “demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact,” the Bills team Twitter account posted on Thursday, as his lungs “continue to heal and he is making steady progress.”
As of Thursday morning, Hamlin is “doing better, awake and showing more signs of improvement,” according to his teammate Kaiir Elam.
Speaking in a press conference, University of Cincinnati Medical Center Dr. Timothy Pritts said Hamlin was able to communicate to medical personnel in writing, asking if the Bills won the game, to which they responded, “you won the game of life.”
Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas II, a former high school teammate of Hamlin, said he visited him at the hospital, telling reporters, “I know he could hear me” and that he believes Hamlin “will walk out of that room.”
University of Cincinnati doctors said the next step before Hamlin can be discharged is for him to breathe on his own, adding he is able to move his hands and feet, and that the best outcome is for him to return to “who he was before this all happened.”
Hamlin likely suffered commotio cordis—caused by a sudden impact to the chest wall that can induce life-threatening cardiac arrest or arrhythmia—on the field during the Bills game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday after making a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. After making the tackle, Hamlin stood up, but quickly collapsed onto the field, requiring CPR for several minutes as medical personnel from both teams used a defibrillator to restore his pulse. He was resuscitated shortly after on the field and taken to a local ICU.
The NFL stopped play several minutes after Hamlin collapsed on the field, and has made no decision on whether the game, which ended in the first quarter, will be resumed. One day after the game, the NFL Players Association issued a statement, saying the “only thing that matters at this moment is Damar’s health and well being,” while the NFL announced the game would not be made up this week, and that there is no decision on whether it will be resumed at a later date. The Bills are scheduled to play the New England Patriots at home on Sunday, the last week of the regular season, although NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent is reportedly considering moving that game, as well.