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Bills player incident all too familiar for former Utah State athlete

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 03, 2023

LOGAN, Utah — When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and collapsed during Monday's game against Cincinnati, it was an all too familiar scene for a former Utah State athlete.

Aggies basketball player Daniel Berger went through a similar situation in 2013.

“I saw what took place and the reaction of the team and coaches and fans, and honestly it brought back some memories," said Berger.

Berger was at practice, getting ready for a game against BYU, when he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Just like with Hamlin, medical crews quickly started CPR and used an Automated External Defibrillator to get Berger's heart beating again.

“I had two guys who knew exactly what they were doing," said Berger. "They got the AED on me in minutes. Knew where it was, how to use it and it saved my life."

Dr. John Ryan, a cardiologist and professor at the University of Utah, said surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is unlikely.

"Unfortunately, nine out of ten people do not survive," said Ryan.

He said every minute counts when it comes to surviving and reducing the possibility of brain damage.

When it comes to what caused Hamlin to go into cardiac arrest and the fact that it happened following a high-impact tackle, Ryan says it could have been something called Commotio Cordis

“Acknowledging the fact that I’ve only seen what you’ve seen. and I have not seen any medical records, the impression however, from what we saw last night is that an impact to the chest at the wrong time can result in an abnormal heart rhythm.”  

Ryan added that while the condition has been seen before in sports like baseball and hockey, it is incredibly rare. 

"It's an incredibly unfortunate time impact to the chest," he said. "To put things in context, the interval in which you need high impact to the chest is 40 milliseconds." 

It's a good reminder on how important it is for everyone to know how to help save someone experiencing cardiac arrest.

“Be aware of the need to train as many of your loved ones in CPR as possible and to get people to do CPR early," said Ryan.

Berger also said he encourages people to be educated on the use of automated external defibrillators.

“The AED itself is obviously very important, but it’s also the training and the constant thought of this is a possibility. Because it could be one of your family members, one of your loved ones that could be in need of help.”