From a neurologist’s perspective, an intact nervous system usually “means there are no problems with brain function that can be detected on a physical exam,” Dr. Sachdev said, adding that “this is encouraging.”
The term also usually means that a person is “able to carry on a conversation and follow orders”, Erin Feinstein, DO, an assistant professor of neurology at Rutgers New Jersey School of Medicine in New Jersey, tells SELF. When a person’s nervous system is intact, “they have strength in all extremities, normal sensation in all extremities and face. They can walk independently and perform all activities of daily living independently,” Dr. Feinstein said.
Still, “neurologically intact” does not mean that a person is fully restored to previous function.
Of course, we don’t know the full extent of Hamlin’s condition, and it’s important to remember that he’s still in intensive care — meaning it could take some time for him to fully recover.
It can be difficult to tell early on whether someone’s brain is at the level it was before an injury or health problem, Dr. Adkins said. “With some exceptions, based on examination, a person’s brain function may appear to be completely normal, but other data, such as neuroimaging, laboratory, recordings of brain activity, or spinal fluid findings, will reveal underlying abnormalities,” Tia Chakraborty, MDa neurologist specializing in critical care at Corewell Health Butterworth Hospital in Michigan, tells SELF.
People with intact nervous systems are often considered to be “back to their baseline,” it is claimed Shephal Doshi, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist and director of cardiac electrophysiology and pacing at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., may not be ready for more complex thinking or tasks. “If you ask someone like Hamlin what a particular defense strategy is, their brain probably isn’t ready for it,” Dr. Doshi tells SELF. “Parts of the brain may have been stunned.” Having the nervous system intact is “a start,” but “we want his nervous system to fully recover,” Dr. Dorsey explained.
What might happen now?
It really depends on the situation, Dr. Adkins said. “Recovery is individual, and in some ways it’s minute by minute, hour by hour, and then day by day before there’s a trend,” he said. “I’ve seen people go from cardiac arrest to being able to walk out of the hospital four or five days later; I’ve seen others take a long recovery to regain strength, coordination, and balance.” In the end, Dr. Adkins said, “everyone’s Things are different.”
Now that Hamlin is no longer intubated, more testing may be done, Dr. Feinstein said. “A full neurological evaluation is needed to determine if he has any deficits,” she said.
We’ll give you this nice update via the Buffalo Bills Twitter account: “Damar Hamlin FaceTimed into our team meeting today to speak with players and coaches,” read a recent tweet. “What he said to the team: ‘Love you guys.'”