As I have said here many times, our son Daniel is thought, by the teams of pathologists who performed his autopsy, to have died suddenly from a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance, which will have been five years ago now, this coming November. Children, teens and adults all may die from a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance without prior symptoms.
Today however, we are going to talk again about a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance and death which can occur following even fairly mild chest percussion or impact, called commotio cordis.
Two years ago, 22 year old George Boiardi (Yes, from the family who started Chef Boy-ar-dee) was playing lacrosse for his team at Cornell University. He blocked a shot and was hit in the chest, causing a disruption of his heart rhythm which led to a cardiac arrest which was fatal.
|This is an EKG tracing of one heartbeat which shows the vulnerable window of when commotio cordis can occur.|
A relatively minor tap on the chest delivered accidentally at the correct time in the heartbeat can lead to a life-threatening arrhythmia or heart rhythm disturbance which all too often is not readily recoverable. Besides CPR, the best chance a commotio cordis survivor has is an AED, but often, even an AED will not work to bring the heart rhythm back once it has ceased. This is one reason an AED and CPR certified persons need to be an every sports practice as well as every game.
There are a number of cases of this which have been covered in world news. Remember that commotio cordis is the occurrence of a life threatening ventricular arrhythmia which occurs after a contact of mild, moderate or significant force to the chest of a person. This impact, with a ball, a fist or even an open hand, or even an attempt to demonstrate CPR on a live person causes the arrhythmia because it was delivered at coincidentally an essential period of rest or repolarization of the heart. The effect is often devastating and permanent.
There are multiple types of fatal spontaneous rhythm disturbances which cause death which can be completely independent of any type of coronary artery disease. Commotio cordis is only one type and it is the type which is caused by a known precipitant.
We offer condolences to George Boiardi's family and his friends.
You can learn more about George here: http://boiardifoundation.org/about/
This is more information about the foundation dedicated to George: boiardifoundation.org