National group based in Overland Park focused on ways to avoid Commotio Cordis, other sports injuries

KSHB (Kansas City, KS)

January 4, 2023

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment in Overland Park is helping set safety standards for sports.

“So we develop performance and safety standards for athletic equipment,” said Mike Oliver, Executive Director / Legal Counsel for NOCSAE.

Oliver told KSHB 41 NOCSAE has worked for years studying Commotio Cordis, the injury that might have nearly killed Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in Monday night’s NFL game.

“It’s basically a disruption of the heart’s beating as a result of a blow to the chest,” said Oliver.

Commotio Cordis can be fatal without the quick use of an AED or emergency defibrillator machine.

“Even though you don’t mechanically hurt the heart, you create this pressure wave through the chest that can cause the heart to go into what’s called ventricular fibrillation,” Oliver said. “You see its shows he is in v-fib and they do all the shocking, that’s what this is.”

NOCSAE research uncovered what happens to the heart during Commotio Cordis and developed ways to protect athletes.

“Padding and configuration and what parts of the body had to be covered and so forth,” Oliver said.

For sports like lacrosse, Oliver says, the risks for a Commotio Cordis phenomenon to occur are higher.

A blow to the chest from a lacrosse ball could lead to Commotio Cordis.

“We were able to develop a performance standard that says a piece of equipment can be certified compliant with our standard if when you shoot a lacrosse ball at these speeds and these locations, “ Oliver said “The resulting excelerating force and the surrogate are below some level.”

According to Oliver, data shows there are about 5 to 20 Commotio Cordis events a year.

Football is the fourth leading cause, but Olliver says Commotio Cordis could happen to anyone at any age and time.

“It’s like martial arts where someone is taking a blow to the chest and had the same thing, a Commotio Cordis and collapsed,” Oliver said, “So it doesn’t have to be a projectile, it could be an elbow, it could be somebody’s knee, it just has to be focused in a certain area at the right time.”

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