January 18, 2023
Commotio cordis is a Latin term, meaning “agitation of the heart.” It’s a rare, but serious, medical condition that is caused by low-impact trauma to the chest, including by a projectile such as a lacrosse ball or baseball. This impact can cause the heart to change its normal rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
Recently, we asked two medical experts from our USA Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee to help further explain commotio cordis, including its risk among lacrosse players, proper chest protection to reduce the risk, and in its rare occurrence, the treatments needed for a positive outcome.
Watch the video below as Dr. Richard Hinton of MedStar Sports Medicine and Dr. Mark Link of the UT Southwestern Medical Center provide a fuller explanation about commotio cordis and cardiac safety.
As one of the world’s leading experts on commotio cordis, Link notes that the use of improved chest protectors, now required by USA Lacrosse within its boys’ rules, offers significant risk reduction against commotio cordis by decreasing force against the chest wall.
“Manufacturers are now using more plastic and stiff material,” Link said. “That’s why the chest protectors now are better.”
Link also notes the importance of immediate CPR and defibrillation to restore the heart rhythm in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.
“The treatment is twofold,” Link said. “One, is to start CPR immediately. What CPR does is perfuse the brain. The brain is the most susceptible to low blood flow. So, you do good CPR while you wait for a defibrillator (AED).”
Link reminds viewers that commotio cordis is a very rare occurrence, and should not scare athletes and families away from sports.
“To put this in perspective, far more kids die in a motor vehicle accident on the way to practice than they do from commotio,” Link said. “Sports are important, and we don’t want to frighten parents so that they don’t let their kids play sports. There are so many benefits from sports.”