(CNN) Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who has been cleared to return to football, said on Tuesday his cardiac arrest during an NFL game in January was caused by a commotio cordis.
Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after making a tackle and appearing to be hit with a helmet in the chest during the first quarter of the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2.
Commotio cordis can occur when severe trauma to the chest disrupts the electrical charge of the heart and causes dangerous fibrillations.
“I died on national television in front of the whole world,” Hamlin said in his first session with reporters since his injury. “I’ve lost a bunch of people in my life. I know a bunch of people who’ve lost people in their lives. I know that feeling. That’s the biggest blessing of all of this – for me to have still my people and my people still have me.”
The 25-year-old has been at the Bills practice facility in Orchard Park, New York, participating in voluntary off-season workouts this week, according to the team.
“He’s fully exonerated,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane told reporters. “He’s there.”
Hamlin said he was lucky to have wonderful medical staff who “treat me with the care of their children.”
Safety said his heart is still in the game as he announces his return to the NFL.
“I just want to show people that fear is a choice. You can keep doing something without having the answers and not knowing what’s at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “You can feel anxious – you can feel any type of feeling – but you keep putting that right foot in front of the left foot and you keep going. I want to defend that.”
Beane said Hamlin saw three separate specialists in the offseason, all of whom agreed the player “is clear to return to full activity like anyone else coming back from injury.”
“(Hamlin) in a big headspace to come back and make a comeback,” Beane added.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the team is happy to have Hamlin back.
“We’re super excited for Damar. He’s going one step at a time here. He’s been cleared from a physical standpoint,” McDermott said.
“We’ll be providing all the mental help we can from a mind, body and spirit perspective, so happy for him that he’s been able to tick some of those boxes so far and we’re going to forward by taking it one day at a time.”
According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, if no underlying heart abnormalities are found during testing, athletes who have been resuscitated after a commotio cordis can return to play.
Hamlin likely underwent numerous tests, including EKGs and echocardiograms, before doctors cleared him to return to training.
“What this basically means are a few things. One is that his heart function is back to normal. He has no underlying issues with the anatomy of the heart itself, and he has no electrical issues underneath. underlying, so that’s the biggest thing – and the way they figured out that over the last three and a half months was to do a lot of testing,” said CNN’s chief medical correspondent, the Dr. Sanjay Gupta, on “CNN News Central”.