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Beaumont Doctor Warns Of Commotio Cordis As Baseball Season Begins

Armen Hareyan's picture

Commotio cordis is, in lay terms, sudden cardiac death that results from a blow to the chest wall.

In these events, there is no physical damage to the heart muscle. The trauma comes in the form of disrupting the hearts electrical system. This impact causes the heart to beat irregularly and potentially cause death. Commotio cordis is the second leading cause of death in young athletes.

Most sports sudden cardiac death events are caused by flying projectiles like baseballs, softballs, hockey pucks and lacrosse balls. And, warns one Beaumont heart doctor, they can occur despite the use of commercially available chest protectors.

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"We know that a blow to just the right area of the chest, at just the right time, can cause ventricular fibrillation and in turn lead to sudden cardiac death," says Brian Williamson, M.D., electrophysiologist at Beaumont Hospitals. "So, with the onset of another baseball season we'd like everyone to think seriously about doing as much as they can to protect themselves."

Williamson adds that modifying some rules of various sports and improvements in materials and overall designs of chest protectors in sports are still necessary to reduce the likelihood of these events and make the sports fields safer for young athletes.

According to Dr. Williamson, studies done on commotio cordis boil down to four distinct factors that influence the chance that such a blow to the chest leads to an athletes death.They include: if a blow comes directly over the cardiac silhouette (left of the lower breastbone), directly over the small part of the chest wall, high speed, high energy impacts and timing to the millisecond during the cardiac cycle in which the blow comes.

While the actual number of cases worldwide is unknown, the U.S. Commotio Cordis Registry documented 128 cases in one recent report.

Beaumont is Michigan's, and one of the nations, most experienced providers of heart care, ranking tops in Michigan and 12th overall on the 2006 U.S. News & World Report list of the Top 50 hospitals for Heart and Heart Surgery. Beaumont offers comprehensive, state-of-the-art heart care at its Royal Oak and Troy hospitals and is dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart problems.