Welcome to 2023! I hope that everyone had a happy New Year and a merry Christmas. At my house, our guests are gone and we are in the sweet spot between holiday celebrations and returning to work and school.
In Washington, Congress is getting back to work. Kevin McCarthy is hoping to end the day as the new Speaker of the House. The problem is that McCarthy is not an effective politician and is not liked or trusted by either side of the Republican Party. Nevertheless, there isn’t really a viable alternative so I expect the holdouts to extract what concessions they can and then make McCarthy speaker.
Thanks for reading The Racket News! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Having said that, what I really wanted to write about today is related to Damar Hamlin’s sudden collapse in the first quarter of Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. After tackling the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, Hamlin gets up and then suddenly topples backward.
Emergency crews responded immediately and performed CPR on Hamlin. Ultimately, he was transported to a hospital where, as of this writing, he remains in critical condition.
So far, the Bills have acknowledged that a cardiac arrest caused Hamlin to collapse, but even before that, certain people were implying that it was related to the COVID-19 vaccines. This conspiracy theory ties into previous claims that the vaccines had caused a surge in health problems and deaths of athletes around the world.
Let’s start by saying that we don’t know exactly what happened to Hamlin, but there is no evidence that it is related to any vaccination. In fact, we don’t even know that Hamlin is vaccinated. The NFL does not have a vaccine mandate, although the majority of players are vaccinated.
A video that has made the rounds on the internet over the past couple of years purports to show a number of other athletes that have collapsed due to adverse reactions to COVID vaccines, but the reality is that none of these incidents have been linked to vaccinations. Some of the players were unvaccinated and several had recently had the COVID-19 virus.
Snopes has researched the seven incidents identified in the video. I know a lot of people mistrust Snopes (although in actuality the conspiracy theories surrounding the outlet mostly don’t stand up to scrutiny), but my advice is always to read past the headline and click through to the linked primary sources. Here is the rundown on the alleged epidemic of collapses:
These incidents share a number of commonalities. First, the vaccination status of most of the victims is not known, but we do know that some were unvaccinated. The timing of the incidents makes it questionable that many of the people, particularly those outside the US and Europe, would have been vaccinated because vaccines weren’t widely available in third-world countries until later. What we do know is that several of the people who collapsed had previously had COVID-19.
A second point is that the seven incidents take place all around the world. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of athletes around the world. Given the large number of people involved, it makes sense that there would be a number of medical emergencies that occur on the field. Athletes sometimes had medical problems during play before COVID and they will continue to do so in the future.
Conversely, if the COVID vaccines were really causing widespread heart problems and blood clots, there should be a lot more high-profile medical emergencies during public sporting events. We don’t see that. The vaccines have been in widespread use for two years now and Hamlin’s collapse is notable because it is not something that is common.
If Hamlin’s problem was not due to a vaccination, then what could it have been? After all, professional athletes don’t just drop unconscious on the field.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet, but my first thought was that it seemed to be a heart problem. Heart attacks are rare among younger people, but they aren’t unheard of. Dr. Bernard Ashby, a vascular cardiologist at Cornell, offered one possible explanation on Twitter. The hard tackle just before Hamlin lapsed into unconsciousness may have caused a cardiac arrest.
The fact is that football is a violent and dangerous sport. Injuries are common and the sport can cause long-term health problems. The relationship between pro football and concussions is well established in addition to the possibility of broken bones.
A personal example involves a friend from high school. He graduated in 1989 and decided to try out for the Georgia Bulldogs in his freshman year of college. During a spring practice, he collapsed and died due to an undiagnosed heart problem. His death had nothing to do with any vaccine.
While deaths from football are rare, they do happen. CNN reported that there were 13 deaths from football in 2017, but none occurred at the college or professional level. Causes of death include brain injuries, heatstroke, and exertion-related cardiac arrest, but none were linked to any sort of vaccinations.
There has been only one in-game death in NFL history and that was more than half a century ago. On October 24, 1971, Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes collapsed and was taken off the field in an ambulance. It was later determined that Hughes had a blood clot that had broken loose and blocked the flow of blood to his heart. A tackle several days earlier may have caused the clot to break free. Hughes also had a family history of heart problems and 75 percent blockage of his arteries. He was 28.
We don’t know the full story about Damar Hamlin’s tragic collapse, but there is no evidence that it was related to a COVID-19 vaccine. The fact is that data shows that the COVID vaccines approved for use in the US are safe for heart patients and the general population. The purported risk to young people from vaccines is low and is not associated with any deaths. What’s more, this is not a prolonged risk as the anti-vax hucksters would have you believe. Any complications usually present within a few days.
In any case, the risk from the virus is greater than the risk from vaccination. The snake oil salesmen who have spent years trying to frighten people away from COVID vaccines have cost thousands of lives. I’m also convinced that they helped tip the scales toward the Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
Rather than spreading lies and fear about what happened to Damar Hamlin, let’s take a moment to pray for him and his family and friends. And when you’re done praying, go sign up for a first aid course that includes CPR and the use of automatic electronic defibrillators.
TWEET OF THE DAY: A clip of a New Year special on Russian state television that has strong “Hunger Games” vibes.