What causes sudden cardiac arrest in sports?

Commotio Cordis is a cardiac event that might be unfamiliar to many people in the sports and medical world. Many of the young people that we have heard about in the news, having suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during sports, have had some underlying cardiac pathology that was usually unknown. 

 Commotio Cordis is a cardiac event that occurs with a sudden non-penetrating blow to the chest in the otherwise healthy individual. It happens when that blow to the chest disrupts the heart’s electrical system, producing a deadly heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

Not only does this sudden cardiac arrest occur in sports, but it can happen any time there is a traumatic blow to the chest. Some of the instances in which this event can occur during sports are when participating in baseball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, martial arts, cheerleading, and football, to name a few. 

Survival rates of Commotio Cordis depend on the surroundings in which this sudden cardiac arrest occurs. When medical personnel are present with lifesaving medical equipment (sporting events with an AED), the survival rates are higher than instances where the individual is without witness and without resuscitative efforts for more than 3 minutes. If no resuscitative measures are performed within that 3-minute window, only about 3% of victims survive. However, even when lifesaving efforts are available, unfortunately only about 30% of people survive this deadly cardiac event.