CHICAGO – It’s a moment that brought shock and sadness to players and fans in the National Football League on Monday night.
Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making a tackle in the first quarter against the Bengals after he suffered cardiac arrest. With emotional players on both sides of the field, he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he remains in critical condition.
The frightening scene, unfortunately, is not a first for the NFL, and Hamlin’s situation brought back memories of something that happened at a Bears’ game 51 years ago.
Chuck Hughes was a reserve wide receiver for the Detroit Lions when he took the field against the Bears at Tiger Stadium on October 24, 1971.
A fourth round draft pick of the Eagles in 1967, he was in his fifth year in the NFL and his second in Detroit. This marked the third game he’d played in the 1971 season and he’d just made his first reception of the campaign from quarterback Greg Landry for 32 yards late in the fourth quarter.
Three plays later, with just over a minute to go, Hughes was running back to the huddle after a play and collapsed on the field. It happened around Bears’ linebacker Dick Butkus, who motioned towards the Detroit bench to get help.
Per the Associated Press account of the game, team athletic trainers along with physicians Dr. Edwin Guise and Dr. Richard Thompson arrived immediately to begin assisting the receiver on the field. They performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and external heart massages before he was taken to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Hughes was pronounced dead at 4:41 PM having suffered a heart attack. An autopsy later revealed that he’d been suffering from heart disease and a blood clot in one of his arteries restricted blood flow to his heart before he collapsed.
It’s believed to be the only player to date to die on the field during a game and one that has come up due to another frightening situation involving an NFL player on Monday.