Commotio cordis is a blunt, non-penetrating traumatic force to the chest that causes an irregular heart rhythm. Unfortunately, these events often cause sudden cardiac death.
Over half of the reported cases of commotio cordis have occurred in sports. While youth baseball is most often associated with these tragic events, they can occur in any sports with projectiles traveling through the air. Hockey pucks, softballs, and soccer balls have caused these events. The occurrence of commotio cordis events is influenced by the exact time of impact during the athlete’s cardiac cycle, a direct impact over his heart, and the speed and hardness of the projectile.
Doctors can only diagnose commotio cordis after all other causes have been ruled out, but it’s estimated to account for approximate 20% of sudden cardiac deaths in young athletes. It is second only to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as a cause of sudden cardiac death in this population. Almost half of these events occurred during competitive sports.
In this video, I discuss that while any sport with projectiles flying at high speeds can present a risk for commotio cordis, it is most often seen in youth baseball. Surprisingly the baseball does not have to be traveling at top speeds to cause such an event. 25% of cases resulted from pitches between 30 and 50 mph.
In my new book, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever, I discuss commotio cordis and what steps parents and coaches can take to save the life of a child should one of these events occur. If you have kids who play baseball or other youth sports, you should read it and take steps to keep your kids healthy. Get it now!
If you have friends you have kids who play youth baseball or other sports with balls and objects that fly through the air, please share this video with them!