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General Information About Commotio Cordis

What is Commotio Cordis?

Latin for “heart agitation,” commotio cordis refers to a disruption of the heart from an impact to the chest. This usually caused by a non-penetrating blow to the anterior chest. It is most common in young male athletes. This impact causes ventricular fibrillation.

Ventricular fibrillation (also called V-fib) causes the lower chambers of the heart to quiver, essentially eliminating its ability to pump blood. This causes a person to collapse, and leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

Who is Affected?

According to the United States Commotio Cordis Registry, 95% of reported cases were males, with half of the cases occurring during competitive sports. An additional 25% were reported during recreational sports. It is most common in baseball, but has been known to occur in softball, hockey, lacrosse, and football. For this reason, the age demographic with the highest risk for commotio cordis is male athletes between 10 and 18 years of age.

Prevention of Commotio Cordis:

The best method of prevention is education and proper training on the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Immediate use of an AED is imperative in instances of ventricular fibrillation. The ability for coaches, athletic trainers, and even parents to recognize signs of commotio cordis is crucial.

According to the American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI), every minute that passes after a commotio cordis event, without defibrillation and quality CPR, decreases the patient’s likelihood of recovery by 10%. It is, therefore, imperative to have the proper equipment and personnel on hand to respond immediately in case of an emergency.

Please make sure that an AED is accessible at all athletic events, including a trained professional on hand should action become necessary. In events involving direct blows to the chest, every second counts.

We strongly encourage all coaches involved in youth and high school sports to take the initiative to become certified in CPR and the use of an AED.