The life-threatening injury Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills endured live on-camera during a recent Monday night football game, has thrust a rare cardiac phenomenon into the spotlight.
While Hamlin’s team and family have yet to confirm exactly what happened, many doctors following his case on-line, have narrowed it down to one likely cause: commotio cordis.
Richard Lane, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist with INTEGRIS Health Cardiovascular Physicians in Oklahoma City, says the condition is so rare that in his 30 years of practice he has not seen a single case. “I’ve never heard of it happening in football, usually it occurs in baseball or softball when the ball hits a player directly in the chest. It predominately is seen in children since they are typically thinner and have less padding or protection around the chest cavity.”
Lane continues, “It happens so rarely, because the timing has to be perfect. The hit has to happen at just the right time in the cycle to cause the heart to fibrillate. So this isn’t something people need to be particularly fearful of, but awareness is always beneficial.”
What is commotio cordis?
Commotio cordis is a type of sudden cardiac arrest that occurs as a result of a blow to the chest. It is most commonly seen in young athletes who participate in contact sports. The impact to the chest causes the heart to stop functioning properly, leading to a lack of blood flow to the body. This can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Treatment typically involves CPR and the use of a defibrillator to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.
What are the symptoms of commotio cordis?
The symptoms of commotio cordis can be subtle and may not be immediately obvious. The most common symptoms include:
*Sudden collapse or loss of consciousness
*Absence of a pulse
*Absence of normal breathing
*Chest pain
If you suspect someone is experiencing commotio cordis, it is important to call for emergency medical assistance immediately. Every minute that passes without treatment can increase the risk of serious complications or death.
It is imperative appropriate medical personnel and equipment is available at sporting events to ensure any cases of commotio cordis can be treated promptly, as appears to be the case in Hamlin’s injury.