Commotio Cordis (CC) is the medical term for a rare disruption of the heart's electrical system that occurs from a blunt impact to the chest and leads to sudden cardiac arrest. CC is largely the result of the timing of the blow during a narrow window within the repolarization phase of the cardiac cycle. It throws the heart into a lethal abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation; a useless quivering of the heart muscle.
Sudden death due to VF may occur when a baseball or other projectile strikes the precordium of an individual with no underlying cardiac disease. Young athletes are especially at risk because of the pliability of their chest walls. Athletes wearing chest protectors have died while playing baseball, lacrosse, hockey and softball. The risk of CC cannot be completely eliminated through the use of protective equipment. The true number of deaths is unknown due to inaccurate reporting.
An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can save the life of someone whose heart is in a VF rhythm. To save lives and prevent death from CC, coaches, bystanders and other sports personnel should be trained to recognize and respond promptly by performing Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and using an AED.
Community based programs should have AEDs onsite and readily available. If the victim is defibrillated within one minute of cardiac arrest, the reported survival rate can be as high as 90%. If defibrillated within 5 minutes, the survival can be as high as 50%. AEDs are critically to saving the life of someone stricken with CC.