ArticlesHealth Ministry

Commotio Cordis

If you are like a lot of people, you saw or heard about a young professional football player who suffered a cardiac arrest a few weeks ago on the playing field to the horror of everyone watching the game. Damar Hamlin, 24 years of age of the Buffalo Bills, was tackling a member of the opposing team in a seemingly routine play that did not look unusually violent, when he was hit in the chest by the opposing team member’s shoulder. Hamlin then wrapped his arms around the opposing team member’s shoulder to drag him down and then stood up, adjusted his face mask, and about three seconds later, fell backwards and lay motionless. Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and was down for 19 minutes while receiving medical attention. During this time, an automatic defibrillator (AED) was placed on Hamlin and CPR administered. In the end, both of these things saved this young man’s life. 

Although it is not confirmed at this time, some cardiologists speculate Hamlin suffered a rare type of trauma called commotio cordis, which occurs when a severe blow to the chest happens at a critical time during a heartbeat. This only happens during a rare set of circumstances when a sharp hit lands directly over the person’s heart at the exact wrong location and exactly at the wrong time of the heartbeat.  The impact causes the heart to convert to an abnormal heart rhythm (ventricular fibrillation) and cardiac arrest happens. 

Usually cardiac arrests that occur in the playing field are associated with previously diagnosed or undiagnosed structural or primary electrical cardiac abnormalities like cardiomyopathy or congenital conditions. In general, underlying heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, even if the players are young. 

One of the most important things to mention here is that this young man’s life was saved because of people who were trained in CPR and the use of an automatic defibrillator. More than 365,000 people in the U.S. have sudden cardiac arrests in non-hospital settings each year, according to the American Heart Association and survival depends on quick CPR and shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm, as reportedly happened with Hamlin. If there is one teachable moment to talk about, it is that everyone learns how to do CPR. The one you save could be your loved one!

St. Therese of Lisieux will be holding a Family and Friends CPR class on April 23, 2023, Sunday from 1:00pm-3:00pm and again on October 15, 2023, Sunday from 1:00pm-3:00pm. Although both of these dates are far off, you might want to mark the dates on your calendar and make it a point to come and learn CPR. If these dates don’t work for you, or you would like to find an earlier class, numerous CPR classes offered in the community such as the at the Red Cross or community courses.