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Damar Hamlin shows ‘signs of improvement’ while still in critical condition, Buffalo Bills report

(CNN) — Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamllin showed “signs of improvement,” the team said Wednesday, while remaining in critical condition.

“Damar remains in the ICU in critical condition with signs of improvement registered yesterday and overnight,” the Bills said in a statement. “He is expected to remain in intensive care while his healthcare team continues to monitor and treat him.”

The 24-year-old suffered cardiac arrest in the middle of a game on Monday, after which he remains sedated and on a ventilator while doctors work to get him to breathe on his own.

His collapse on the field led to the suspension of the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals, stunning a packed stadium that moments before had vibrated with Hamlin’s tackle of a Bengals wide receiver.

Ten seconds after the collapse, the Bills team coaches were tending to the player. He was brought to the field by ambulance in less than five minutes, footage shows, and was given CPR, according to an ESPN broadcast.

“Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the field from the team and local independent medical and paramedical personnel. He was later transported to a local hospital where he is in critical condition,” the NFL said. The league declined to provide an update or more details on Hamlin’s condition during a late-night call with reporters.

What caused Hamlin’s cardiac arrest

It’s still unclear what led to Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, a condition that results from electrical disturbances that cause the heart to suddenly stop beating properly. Death can occur quickly if help is not provided immediately. It is not the same as a heart attack or heart failure.

CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explained that when the heart is not beating properly, fluid can sometimes back up into the lungs and make it difficult for medical staff to oxygenate the patient. Therefore, they turn the person face down to facilitate breathing.

Gupta also said it appears Hamlin still has a significant amount of cardiac dysfunction and his heart is unable to pump enough blood.

One of the treatment options is to decrease the body’s demand for oxygenated blood, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

NFL investigating all possible causes, chief medical officer says

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Wednesday that the league is investigating all possible causes of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest in Monday night’s game.

“I know there have been many theories and much discussion about the commotio cordisand that’s certainly possible,” Sills said at a news conference.

The commotio cordisor cardiac concussion, occurs when severe trauma to the chest disrupts the heart’s electrical charge, causing dangerous fibrillations.

Sills said it’s a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it could be the diagnosis if doctors don’t find other causes. “You have to hit the right kind of punch in the right place on your chest with the right amount of force at the right time in that cardiac cycle. So a lot of things have to line up for that to happen,” she explained.

Doctors will look for possible congenital or other abnormalities in Hamlin’s heart, he said. All players undergo a physical before each season and doctors take a detailed medical history, which includes the American Heart Association screening guidelines related to potential heart problems.

Sills said that any time a player is evacuated from the field, the NFL and its medical experts do a detailed review of what happened. They will also look specifically at the role of protective equipment.

Wave of support for Hamlin

Fans and players from across the sports community expressed overwhelming support for Hamlin Monday night.

The NFL Players Association tweeted Monday night that the organization and “everyone in our community is praying for Damar Hamlin.”

“We have been in contact with the players of the Bills and the Bengals, and with the NFL. The only thing that matters at the moment is Damar’s health and well-being,” the players’ association said.

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