Understanding What Is Commotio Cordis

Want to learn more about what is commotio cordis? Find out how it occurs, how to prevent it, and what steps you can take if someone near you experiences it.

Commotio cordis is a medical condition that occurs when the chest wall is hit in a certain way, creating an electrical disruption of the heart rhythm. It’s usually caused by impacts during sports or other recreational activities. However, it can also occur from seemingly ordinary collisions. Knowing what to look for and how to respond quickly can help save lives and minimize future damage.

What is Commotio Cordis?

Commotio cordis is a medical condition that occurs when the chest wall receives an impact from a blunt or penetrating object, such as a baseball or hockey puck, at just the right moment in the heart’s electrical cycle. This disruption of electrical activity causes sudden cardiac arrest—a form of cardiac arrest with no warning signs and typically comes on suddenly and without warning.

How Does Commotio Cordis Occur?

Commotio cordis occurs when the chest wall is quickly and severely compressed at an extremely specific moment in the cycle of electrical conduction within the heart. This is usually right before the peak of ventricular repolarization in the early stages of ventricular contraction. When this happens, it disrupts the electrical signal to the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles), causing sudden ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest.

Who is at Most Risk for Suffering from This?

The highest risk population for commotio cordis is young males. It most commonly occurs in children between the ages of 6 and 16, though it can occur in older adolescents and adults as well. Generally, the younger the victim the higher the chance of survival if medical treatment is rendered quickly. Unfortunately, even with proper treatments about 75% of individuals who suffer commotio cardus die from their injuries. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how it can occur and what steps you can take should someone in your presence be suffering from this condition.

How to Prevent Commotio Cordis

While there is no guaranteed method to prevent commotio cordis, there are steps that can be taken in order to reduce the risk of someone suffering a blunt force trauma to the chest. Wearing protective gear such as safety vests and chest guards designed for protection from blunt forces has been proven to reduce the risk of commotio cardus. Additionally, it is important to ensure that any person participating in sports or other activities that could put them at risk of blunt force trauma receives training on proper technique and form so they avoid placing their body in dangerous positions.

What Do You Do If Someone Experiences It Near You?

If an individual is suspected of having commotio cordis, it is important to immediately call 911 and begin CPR. It is often difficult to distinguish between a heart attack and commotio cordis externally so any warning signs should take precedence. Additionally, defibrillation may be required if the person’s heart stops beating or if they go into cardiac arrest. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can help restore a normal heartbeat, but they must be used within a few minutes in order for them to be effective in treating commotio cordis.

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