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January 06, 2023

Eagles' Miles Sanders spoke with 'best friend' Damar Hamlin as he recovers from frightening cardiac arrest

The two NFL players competed in high school in the Pittsburgh area; Bills safety 'continues to progress remarkably' after collapse on 'Monday Night Football,' the team said

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders and Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin were once two of the most heralded high school football prospects from the Pittsburgh area.

Sanders, 25, grew up just east of Pittsburgh in Swissvale and attended the powerhouse Woodland Hills High School. Hamlin, 24, grew up in McKees Rocks and was a standout at Central Catholic High School. They were adversaries on the field, but developed a tight bond during their respective journeys through the NCAA ranks and on to the NFL. Sanders chose to attend Penn State University instead of the University of Pittsburgh, where Hamlin went to college and became a team captain in the Panthers' secondary. 

On "Monday Night Football," the sports world witnessed Hamlin collapse on the field after going into cardiac arrest just moments after making a tackle. The seriousness of the situation soon became apparent as medical staff administered CPR on Hamlin and players from both the Bills and Bengals prayed together in visible distress. The game was postponed and eventually canceled — a first for the NFL involving a game that had already started.

Sanders was watching live as Hamlin remained down on the field.  

On Friday, after Hamlin spent several days in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the Bills announced that he has made significant progress and FaceTimed his teammates and coaches.

In the Eagles locker room on Friday, Sanders told reporters that he also had FaceTimed with Hamlin and that the two were able to joke together. Sanders called Hamlin his "best friend," per the NFL Network's James Palmer. 

"I told him, I said, 'You know you're the most famous person in the world right now?'" Sanders said. "(Hamlin) said, 'Not for the right reasons,' but I'm like, 'Bro, you're blessed.'"

Hamlin also commented Friday on an Instagram post that Sanders shared, with pictures of the two hanging out together off the field.

"Love you more baby boi finish the mission," Hamlin wrote.

The medical team caring for Hamlin reached a diagnosis by exclusion on Thursday, confirming the impressions of many medical professionals that the cardiac arrest stemmed from commotio cordis. The incredibly rare injury, usually seen among youth baseball players, occurs when a sharp blow to the chest happens at a very precise moment in the cardiac cycle, making the heart's rhythm erratic and potentially causing a life-threatening cardiac arrest.

“A lot of people have been speculating about what would have caused this [to a] young, healthy, great condition young man,” Col. Sidney Hines, the NFL's deputy medical director, said Thursday, via ProFootballTalk. “What we have seen through the video and what we know, (NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer) and I discussed this and probably said this in unison, commotio cordis."

Mayer said this is the first time an NFL player has received a commotio cordis diagnosis, although Hamlin's health is still being evaluated for other possible causes or issues that may have contributed. 

“The good news is if that continues to be the presumptive working diagnosis, that is so exceedingly rare that someone who had (it) would not be at risk for the future, and (if) indeed that turns out to be the bottom line diagnosis, then there’s been 24,000 men who have played this game in the National Football League, and this has never happened before, so it would be a 1 in 24,000 incidences.”