Commotio cordis occurs when a blow, typically from fast-flying objects like baseballs and hockey pucks, to a specific part of the chest causes the heart's electrical activity to be disrupted. Karate and football strikes to the chest can cause an event.
A potentially deadly arrhythmia is caused by the result. Cardiac arrest and a heart attack are not the same thing. When the lower chambers of the heart contract rapidly, it's called ventricular fibrillation, and it prevents the heart from pumping blood to the rest of the body. Researchers learned this from a study on an anesthetized pig.
People who experience commotio cordis don't lose consciousness immediately. About 20% of people can continue playing their sport and talk for a short time before collapsing.
It occurs most frequently in male teens playing competitive sports and is considered to be the second-leading cause of sudden death in young athletes after hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The data shows that cases are increasing. Experts believe that the increase in diagnoses is due to a better knowledge of commotio cordis.
Despite the use of protective equipment such as chest protectors or softer balls, commotio cordis has been reported among players of many sports.
It's an extremely rare event.
I've been watching football my entire life and I've never seen anything like this. It is so rare that it is comparable to winning the Powerball or being hit by lightning twice. The heart is vulnerable to this in less than 30 seconds. The hit has to be in the right place at the right time.
There were 58 athletes who experienced commotio cordis between 1980 and 2011 according to the most recent study. Most of the time the event is reported in the US but also in other countries.
Chris Pronger, a hockey player, was knocked out in the 1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs when a puck hit him on the left side of his chest. Four days later, Pronger came back to the ice.
Pronger said that he was fortunate to have an outcome similar to that of Hamlin's. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and teammates of Damar.
It is absolutely necessary for survival after commotio cordis to be treated immediately with cardiopulmonary resuscitation and an automated external defibrillator. According to the institute at the University of Connecticut, survival rates decline by 10% for every minute delay in getting shocked.
Over the last 15 years, the survival rate for commotio cordis has increased by more than 50%. Improved survival rates can be attributed to better training and access to automated external defibrillators.
It is not known if Hamlin received treatment for his heart problem or if his heartbeat came back on the field. Some people who are resuscitated after commotio cordis are left with brain injuries if treatment isn't started fast.
They were able to do effective compressions to keep his brain supplied with oxygen after they shocked him. If both of those are true, you would hope that he would make a full neurologic recovery and also a full cardiac recovery and not have any long-term functional effects on a part of his brain.