Tragic Sports Injuries: The Dos and Don’ts in an Age of Reactionaryism

It is an unfortunate, yet all too real reality that tragic sports injuries occur. While the worst injuries are usually a nasty compound fracture or a concussion that results in decorticate posturing, what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Monday Night Football was a once-in-a-trillion chance, but it happened.

The latest intelligence suggests that Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Tee Higgins midway through the first quarter. He was on the turf for about nine minutes as responders performed CPR all while Bills and Cincinnati Bengals players, coaches, and personnel stood in shock.

The Dos and Don’ts When Reacting to Tragic Sports Injuries

Witnessing tragic sports injuries is a traumatic experience whether you are a fan of the player or just a bystander. You watch a player’s career — and, in this case along with other, most serious instances, their life — in jeopardy. Hamlin’s injury is a moment NFL fans will be able to look back on and be able to account for where they were when he went down.

One of the hosts of Locked on Bengals, Jake Liscow, perfectly described the experience for all on-lookers as “shared trauma.”

Unfortunately, not everyone understands how to react and behave when witnessing something as terrifying as what transpired. Allow this to be your go-to list of what to do and what NOT to do in the case of a tragic sports injury.

DO Check Your Sources

When it comes to these, thankfully, rare instances, social media catches fire. There are millions who watch the NFL weekly and there are millions of tweets, etc. that are fired off with just about every play.

Even if today’s version of Twitter is a little laxer when it comes to verifying individuals and an account that was “@FerbieCats433” yesterday can rebrand as “@RealAdamSchefter” and get that blue checkmark, always double-check.

On Monday Night, tweets and claims flooded the internet. If someone is tweeting something that seems too outlandish, it probably is. Even if there is a blue check next to their name, DOUBLE-CHECK their profile.

Cincinnati news outlets like 13ABC and FOX19 were on top of things regarding Hamlin’s status and the events on the field. Generally, those who work in the media (and by work, we mean people who are paid an actual salary and could be fired for spouting off nonsense) are in the know and are giving out good information.

Massive props to ESPN’s Coley Harvey and his coverage throughout as well.

DON’T Spread Lies/Misinformation

To go with the previous point, when an athlete is down on the field, that is not the time to spread your nonsense, especially when it’s going to be the most outlandish, out-of-pocket garbage known to man. That’s not the time.

There’s an individual who is a retired lawyer and is a candidate for Kentucky governor who posted that he “received information from [a] reliable source that Hamlin has passed.” He has since deleted the Tweets (without apology, mind you) but the damage was done. A grown man attempting to get internet points declared that an individual we all watched get hurt as deceased with absolutely no evidence or empathy.

Spreading lies like soulless clout leeches does nobody any favors. If anything, it is detrimental to the people who are actually parsing through the oversaturated market for facts and updates.

Additionally, spreading nonsensical conspiracy theories is the worst. The “The NFL is scripted/fixed” crowd should be quiet after Monday night, to be completely honest.

DO Be a Good Person

Ever since the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens to send the Bills to the playoffs in 2017 effectively ending their drought, Bills and Bengals fans have become close. When that happened, Bills Mafia bombarded Andy Dalton‘s charity with donations.

In Hamlin’s case, he has a GoFundMe that only had about $2,500 raised. As of the evening of January 4th, it’s up over $6.6 Million. Bills fans, Bengals fans, NFL players, NBA players, celebrities, and all others have stepped up to help.

These are athletes’ lives and livelihoods on the line. Even in “less severe” injuries, these players are not going to be the same. Imagine their lives now. Hamlin made $120,000 off of his rookie signing bonus and his contract, overall, is worth just $825,000.

For an individual who will likely need more than a miracle to even get back onto the field, that’s not much money. Helping out by way of donating, sharing, and supporting goes a long way.

Just be a decent person.

DON’T @ Players

The one rule I have when it comes to recruiting in College Football is don’t tweet at recruits.

The same applies here.

Any time there is a tragic sports injury, there will always be people who attack the player who may have facilitated the injury. It doesn’t matter if the injury was due to an accident or malicious intent, people fire up their Twitter fingers and flood players’ mentions.

It happens daily. The worst of us attack players for poor play, being injured, or what have you. When there’s a traumatic incident as what was experienced on Monday, we can hold off on the hot takes.

Far too many are attacking Tee Higgins and have been for the past few days. There are even those with national platforms taking to the call against Higgins.

Do better.

The injury to Hamlin was the freakiest of freak accidents where he went to make the most innocuous, routine tackle and was hit at the precise moment in his chest that caused a cardiac episode. Higgins did not cause the incident. Higgins is not out there trying to harm defenders. Calm down from attacking someone just to make you feel better.

DO Take a Step Back

The Hamlin injury has, unfortunately, turned into a referendum on whether some people love football more than they respect the life of another. We need to take a step back and recalibrate ourselves.

When there’s a tragic sports injury, that person’s life is forever changed. Even with an ACL tear, that player will never run the same way. They don’t truly know how well or poorly their body will heal. Even if they are professional athletes at peak physical form, anything can happen…look at Bo Jackson.

Remember that these athletes are human beings. These athletes have families. They have lives of their own and will be forever changed in an instant.

“That’s the risk of playing the game of football!” Well, sure, but you can still be a decent person about it.

Who cares about the game, at this point? How can we expect these teams to just pick up where the game left off, in the exact spot Hamlin went down? How can we expect Buffalo to suit up and play a focused game against the New England Patriots in Week 18?

Playoffs seedings and division titles be damned, this Bengals-Bills game does not need to be played. These are actual human beings who experienced one of the most traumatic things someone can experience while at work; all in front of nearly 64,000 fans and millions watching on television.

DON’T Feed the Trolls

This is likely the most difficult thing on this list. There are people in this world who thrive off of outrage and triggering people because they cannot find satisfaction in their own sad lives.

Don’t feed the trolls.

Personally, this is incredibly difficult because when I get going, it’s hard to just stop and simply block the fool.

Interacting with trolls only gets you angry, provides the troll with an audience, and they feed off of your anger. Starve them.

As is the case with lies and misinformation, if someone tweets out something that is so disgustingly outrageous, they’re fishing for interaction (looking at you, Nick Adams).

When you come across a Twitter bridge with a troll underneath, don’t pay the troll tax, just block them and move on.

The Hot Takes Can Wait

Watching an individual potentially lose their life is not an experience one can shake for a while. I can personally attest that I’ve lost sleep over it.

I’ve experienced something like this in my own life. My stepfather, the man who raised me, was killed while at work. And, due to that fact, I likely take some of the flippant responses and calls to just resume the game a bit more to heart.

These are people. Sure, they’re handsomely compensated people who get to play a children’s game, but they’re still people.

Damar Hamlin is another guy living out his dream, playing on one of the biggest stages for one of the NFL’s best teams, and was good at it. He’s a person, as is his family. Let’s respect them and allow them all the time they, as well as the Buffalo Bills franchise, need to heal.

Because I’m willing to be that this is going to stick with those players for a very, very long time.


A personal note from the author:

This was the most traumatic thing that millions have witnessed for a long time, so it’s okay if your mental health is not 100% back to where you were prior. I can say that I am not.

Talk to a loved one.

Reach out to a friend.

We all know that life is fleeting and can change at a moment’s notice, so take care of yourself. If you’re experiencing an abnormal amount of depression and/or suicidal thoughts, reach out. Text 988. It takes no time at all to get help.

Trauma is not something that we take lightly, so that’s why the tone of this particular article is a bit more serious.

Damar will be okay. He’ll get out of the hospital and make a full recovery.

You can donate to his GoFundMe here.

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