Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin has been discharged from hospital to continue recovering at home more than a week after his cardiac arrest during an NFL game shocked the league, the team said Wednesday.
The Bills said in a statement that the 24-year-old underwent a "comprehensive medical and neurological evaluation" at a hospital in Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday after being transferred there from Cincinnati a day earlier.
"We have completed a series of tests and evaluations, and in consultation with the team physicians, we are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills," Jamie Nadler, a critical care physician, said in a statement released through the Bills.
Bills coach Sean McDermott told reporters that the team would leave it up to Hamlin to decide when he wants to return to club facilities.
"His health is first and foremost on our mind as far as his situation," McDermott said. "We'll welcome him back as he feels ready."
Hamlin, a defensive safety, was left in critical condition on January 2 when he collapsed during the Bills' clash with the Bengals in Cincinnati, forcing the abandonment of the Monday night football game.
The frightening incident, in which team medical staff resuscitated Hamlin on the field before he was taken to hospital by ambulance, once again put more scrutiny on the physically punishing nature of America's most popular sport, although the precise cause of Hamlin's medical emergency has yet to be determined.
Hamlin has made steady progress since he was hospitalized, regaining consciousness last Wednesday and addressing teammates via a video call Friday after a breathing tube was removed.
He was released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday and admitted to the hospital in Buffalo as doctors continued to try to pinpoint the cause of the cardiac arrest and determine what ongoing treatment might be needed.
After the move Hamlin tweeted his thanks to the medical staff in Cincinnati and expressed gratitude for the outpouring of goodwill across the sporting world.
Millions of dollars in donations poured into a GoFundMe toy drive that he started as part of his charitable foundation.
Over the weekend NFL teams held moments of prayer and celebrated his recovery with on-field insignia and "Love for Damar" messages on signs and T-shirts.
"The same love you all have shown me is the same love that I plan to put back into the world 'n more," Hamlin tweeted Monday.
- Beyond excited -
Bills players had returned to action on Sunday with a 35-23 victory over the New England Patriots, the players wearing patches of Hamlin's No. 3 jersey on their uniforms.
The Bills medical and training staff who attended Hamlin when he collapsed were honored before the game.
Timothy Pritts, a UCMC physician, said Monday that Hamlin had watched that game from his hospital room -- reacting enthusiastically when teammate Nyheim Hines returned the opening kick off 96 yards for a touchdown.
"He was beyond excited," Pritts said. "When the opening kick off was run back he jumped up and down, got up out of his chair and set off every alarm possible in the ICU in the process."
While McDermott indicated Hamlin's release from hospital was another boost for the team, he said Hamlin and his father, Mario, had indicated they want players and staff to focus on their upcoming playoff game against the Miami Dolphins.
"They want us to go do our job, and that's what we've got to do," McDermott said.