Cardiac emergencies similar to Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin are common in youth sports

Cardiac emergencies similar to Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin are common in youth sports
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 4:45 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A blow to the chest resulting in a dangerous disruption to the heart affects dozens of young athletes every year.

These cardiac emergencies are often seen in baseball, softball, hockey affecting athletes between the ages of eight and 18.

“If you hit that vulnerable portion of the timing of the heartbeat, you could actually get set up with an arrhythmia that could be fatal,” UofL Health Cardiologist Dr. Kim Williams said.

Commotio cordis is Latin for irritation of the heart. It occurs when a young athlete is hit in the chest by a ball or a hockey puck. If it strikes in a specific 15 to 30-millisecond window during a heartbeat, the heart can stop.

“And when that happens, you basically have to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR really immediately,” Williams said. “If you don’t, you don’t get blood flow to the brain.”

No exact diagnosis has been made in Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin’s case after the NFL player suffered cardiac arrest after a tackle during a game Monday.

Less than 30 cases are recorded every year, but experts suspect that more cases go misdiagnosed. Organized sports at all age levels are making sure they have defibrillators and people trained in CPR on the sidelines, just for this reason.

“Cardiac arrest is the scariest one, I think,” UofL Health Sports Medicine Medical Director Dr. Jen Daily said. “Most of us hope we never have to use that training, But as soon as it’s identified that something is wrong, an athlete is down, someone is injured, you race to assess the scene, figure out what’s going on, call for help, call for that AED.”

Ongoing studies have resulted in better chest protectors in youth baseball and lacrosse. But experts say more prevention is needed.