“It Felt Like I Was Breathing Through A Straw” | What Do Damar Hamlin And ODU Basketball Player Imo Essien Have In Common?

ODU Basketball player Imo Essien collapsed on court and has things in common with Damar Hamlin.
(Getty Images)

It is a scary time in the world of sports right now, and the list of injuries and tragedies keeps growing. Most recently, a basketball player collapsed on the court during a game.

What Happened To ODU Basketball Player Imo Essien?

On Saturday, a contest between Old Dominion and Georgia Southern was momentarily paused when sophomore Imo Essien fell to the floor during the game. It was a shocking moment that left onlookers paralyzed in fear. Players on both teams were shaken.

With the Damar Hamlin incident still fresh in our minds, Essien’s medical mishap surely gave everyone flashbacks.

Old Dominion would go on to win the game at Georgia Southern 81-75, but everyone’s thoughts were probably with Essien and his health. After his collapse, he was able to remain conscious and walked off on his own with minimal help from the training staff.

According to The New York Post, Old Dominion released a statement after the game detailing that Essien was doing fine, and in “good spirits.”

“Imo Essien was evaluated by the ODU Athletic Training staff along with the GA Southern medical staff,” the school said. “He was responsive throughout and was able to sit with the team for the duration of the game and drove home with the team. He is in good spirits and will work with the ODU Sports Medicine Staff when they return to Norfolk.”

Since his collapse during the game, Essien rode the 500 miles back from Statesboro, Georgia, to Norfolk, Virginia, with the team and has visited a cardiologist, local news station WTKR reported. He says it felt like “all his wind was gone,” in an interview on Tuesday at practice and also referenced Damar Hamlin, saying,” I’m a solider, he’s a soldier.”

What Do Damar Hamlin And Imo Essien Have In Common?

Ironically both players wear the same jersey No. 3 and Essien noted that both players share a March 24 birth date. 

“Essien will be held out of practice on Monday and meet with the cardiologist,” Monarchs head coach Jeff Jones said over the weekend. The sophomore was held out of practice with a non-COVID illness early last week but had recovered and had a “great practice on Wednesday,” Jones told WTKR.

Did COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Essien Collapse?

While Jones claims a non-COVID illness held Essien out of practice last week, many online are now spreading a false narrative that he passed out due to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Many of these same false narratives were advanced just over a week ago with Hamlin. He passed out during a game and went into cardiac arrest, which led many to say it was because of the COVID vaccine. So, while everyone can imagine the cause for concern with Imo Essien’s health, many are just looking at someone to point a finger at to advance their false anti-vaccine narratives. 

Long before we ever heard of a COVID vaccine, elite athletes faced cardiac arrest problems on the hoops court. 

Hank Gathers Collapses And Dies On Court

If only for a moment, Essien’s collapse had to also conjure memories of Hank Gather’s tragic death 32 years ago.



NBA Player Reggie Lewis Dies During Practice

There was also Boston Celtics rising star Reggie Lewis, who in 1993, collapsed on the basketball court during a practice at Brandeis University. The All-Star was pronounced dead two hours later.

While the situation with Imo Essien wasn’t as dire as Hamlin’s, Lewis’ or Gathers’, the emotional spectator reactions were understandable. While we won’t see Damar Hamlin for the rest of the playoffs this year, Essien will be looking to return to the game real soon. That’s good news for Old Dominion, as he’s a starter and integral part of the program.