Category Archives: Commotio Cordis

How Obesity Plays a Deadly Role in Cardiac Arrest Among Young People

The Good News? Early Screening for Cardiovascular Risk Factors Can Save Lives.


We all know that being overweight or obese is bad for your health, but did you know the extent to which obesity and other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol are linked to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in young people between the ages of five and 34?

A recent study conducted by Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, medical director of Cedars-Sinai’s Heart Rhythm Center in Los Angeles and a leader in sudden cardiac death research, found that easily identifiable cardiovascular risk factors were common in young people who suffer from cardiac arrest.

First, a quick word about SCA. Unlike a heart attack, which occurs when one or more coronary artery becomes blocked, SCA occurs when the heart stops beating, stopping the flow of blood to the brain and to other vital organs. SCA often occurs abruptly and without warning. If the heartbeat is not restored with an electrical shock, death follows within minutes. In fact, SCA accounts for more than 350,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Cardiac arrest claims one life every 90 seconds and accounts for more deaths than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined (Heart Rhythm Society).

Obesity can significantly increase the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and all three of these conditions are closely connected with heart disease. In fact, Science Daily reports that being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease by up to 28% compared to those with a healthy body weight, even if they have healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels!

We recently investigated What Causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young People and found that although causes of SCA in children and young adults vary, death is often a result of genetic heart abnormalities, structural abnormalities, or commotio cordis caused by athletic activity. However, researchers at Cedars-Sinai have discovered that obesity and other common (and often preventable) cardiovascular risk factors may play a much greater role in SCA in children and younger people than previously known.

Obesity, Other Risks Play Large Role in Sudden Cardiac Arrest Among the Young,” an article published by the hospital about Dr. Chugh’s study, notes that “Combinations of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking were found in nearly 60 percent of cases studied. The findings shed light on a public health problem among the young that has remained largely unsolved.”

“One of the revelations of this study is that risk factors such as obesity may play a much larger role for the young people who die from sudden cardiac arrest than previously known,” said Dr. Chugh.

The comprehensive 16-hospital, multiyear assessment was conducted as part of the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study.  The study was partially funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Routine Preventative Visits May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

In the article, Dr. Chugh suggests extending prevention efforts (such as offering resources for smoking cessation programs, sharing exercise guidelines, and tips for healthy eating) to include routine preventive screenings for children and young adults. This addition could help reduce cardiovascular risk.

“The added benefit of such screenings is that early efforts to reduce cardiovascular risk are known to translate into reduction of adult cardiovascular disease,” he said.

These visits, typically covered at no charge by health insurance providers (healthcare.gov), usually include screenings, checkups, and counseling. The goal of these visits is to help prevent health problems before a young person at risk for sudden cardiac arrest experiences any symptoms. By reducing known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, we may simultaneously lower the number of deaths caused by cardiac arrest.

We hope you’ll visit our blog in the coming weeks for more information on smoking cessation and for strategies to prevent heart disease. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about purchasing a new or recertified AED for your home or workplace, or you’d like to schedule AED training or maintenance, visit AED.com or call Cardio Partners at 866-349-4362. We also welcome your emails, you can reach us at customerservice@cardiopartners.com.

What Causes Sudden Death in Young People?

These 4 Heart Problems Are Often Blamed for Sudden Death in Young People

Although thankfully very rare, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) claims the lives of an estimated 6,000-8,000 individuals under the age of 35 each year (Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation).  While a vast majority of the more than 356,000 cardiac arrests that are recorded each year occur in adults over the age of 35 who suffer from coronary artery disease, these numbers are still something to be concerned about. The Mayo Clinic estimates that perhaps 1 in every 50,000 SCA deaths a year occurs in young athletes.

While it’s uncommon, and millions of elementary, high school, and collegiate athletes compete each year without incident, SCA can happen at any time and to anyone. If you think that you or your child might be at risk of sudden death, be sure to talk to your doctor about precautions you can take.

What Causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young People?

Causes of SCA in children and young adults vary; however, most often death is a result of genetic heart abnormalities, structural abnormalities, or commotio cordis.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Typically an inherited condition, HCM causes the heart muscle cells to enlarge and which then causes the walls of the ventricle (usually the left ventricle) to thicken. This may block the blood flow out of the ventricle — if this occurs, it’s called obstructive HCM.

Non-obstructive HCM, according to the American Heart Association, “can affect the heart’s mitral valve, causing blood to leak backward through the valve. Sometimes, the thickened heart muscle doesn’t block blood flow out of the left ventricle. This is referred to as non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The entire ventricle may thicken, or the thickening may happen only at the bottom of the heart. The right ventricle also may be affected.”

HCM is very common and affects men and women equally. Often, people who have HCM experience no warning signs or symptoms. Others may experience shortness of breath ordisruptions to the heart’s electrical system which can lead to fast or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and may result in SCA. Although usually not fatal, HCM it often goes undetected and is the most common cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30.

Congenital Coronary Artery Abnormalities

Occasionally people are born with unusual or abnormal heart arteries. If this occurs, arteries may become compressed during exercise and not provide adequate blood flow to the heart.

Long QT Syndrome

Long QT syndrome, caused by abnormalities of proteins in the heart, is also an inherited heart rhythm disorder that may lead to fainting and can cause life-threatening arrhythmias. People with long QT syndrome are at an increased risk for suffering from cardiac arrest. Nearly half of the individuals with long QT never exhibit a symptom of the abnormality. Although there is no cure, medication may help (SADS Foundation).

Commotio Cordis

We discussed commotio cordis at length in March, but in a nutshell, this rare cause of sudden cardiac death can occur in anyone. Because it occurs as the result of a blunt blow to the chest, which can cause ventricular fibrillation, athletes are especially susceptible. The average age of athletes who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest is just 17 and more than two-thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and football players. Baseball, softball, hockey, and lacrosse players, however, are also especially susceptible to commotio cordis.

What are the Warning Signs of Heart Problems in Young People?

Unfortunately, sudden cardiac death often occurs with no warning or indication. However, if you or your child experience dizziness or unexplained fainting during physical activity, it could be an indication that the heart isn’t working properly.  Likewise, if you or your child experience shortness of breath or chest pain, speak to your doctor immediately!

Finally, if there’s a family history of sudden cardiac death or unexplained deaths before the age of 50, you may want to discuss cardiac screening options with your physician.

Cardio Partners offers CPR, first aid, and AED training courses in all 50 states in traditional classroom settings and in blended learning courses. To learn more about our courses or to equip your facilities with an AED, call our team at 866-349-4362, visit aed.com or email Cardio Partners at customerservice@cardiopartners.com. We’d love to hear from you!

What You Need to Know About Young Athletes, Commotio Cordis, & Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Raising Awareness about SCA and Commotio Cordis in Youth

Many of us assume that the more than 350,000 Americans who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year are elderly or suffer from heart disease or other health conditions. While this is certainly true for many, it’s not true for all. In fact, SCA caused by commotio cordis is far more common on the high school playing field than in the halls of your local senior center.

What is Commotio Cordis?

The American Heart Association defines commotio cordis as “a phenomenon in which a sudden blunt impact to the chest causes sudden death in the absence of cardiac damage.” Although the condition was first described in laborers the mid-1700s, in the last couple of decades, commotio cordis events have occurred primarily in sports.

Today, this type of trauma is most often caused by the impact of a ball, hit, or puck to the chest. When an athlete takes a blow to the area directly over the heart at a critical time during the cycle of a heartbeat, it may cause cardiac arrest.

According to the HeartRescue Project, the risk of SCA is three times greater in competitive athletes. The average age of athletes who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest is just 17 and more than two-thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and football players. Baseball, softball, hockey, and lacrosse players, however, are especially susceptible to commotio cordis.

Even a seemingly insignificant or minor blow to the chest can cause commotio cordis, so it’s critical that members of the coaching staff, athletes, and parents are all well-informed.

Facts about Commotio Cordis

  • More than 224 cases have been reported to the US Commotio Cordis Registry since 1995. It’s estimated, however, that many more cases have not been reported.
  • Based on the Registry cases of commotio cordis the survival rate was 24%.
  • 95% of cases affected males.
  • Commotio cordis most frequently occurs in those aged between 10 and 18 years.
  • 50% of episodes occur during competitive sports, a further 25% occur during recreational sports, and the other 25% occurs during other activities that involve blunt force trauma to the chest wall.

(Source: Life in the Fast Lane)

Preventing Commotio Cordis and SCA Among Athletes

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent commotio cordis or SCA from occurring. However, by shining a light on the issue, coaches and athletes can reduce the incidence of life-threatening chest trauma and can maximize survival rates by adhering to the following recommendations.

Coach Responsibly

Young athletes should be educated about commotio cordis and should protect themselves and their teammates from taking direct blows to the chest during practice and game time. Coaching staff members should teach techniques that emphasize player safety and encourage players to turn away from the ball to avoid errant pitches, for example.

Consider Using Reduced Impact Balls

These “safety balls” are especially good options for our youngest athletes, who are in the skill-building stages of their development and training. Not only do these balls minimize injuries, but they reduce fear and improve confidence among young players.

Be Alert

If you see an athlete collapse on the field, be proactive! The American Heart Association notes that “resuscitation, once thought to be nearly universally unsuccessful, has now been demonstrated to be successful in up to 35% of commotio cordis victims.”

Learn CPR

Here at Cardio Partners, we believe in the power of CPR. As a team-building exercise, we recommending signing the whole team up for CPR training. Check out our post, 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn CPR, for more information.

Invest in an AED for Your School Gym and Your Fieldhouse

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of AEDs in the Workplace, but parents of athletes and survivors of commotio cordis would argue that the gymnasium and field house is just as important as a public hallway for automatic external defibrillator placement. In most instances, EMTs cannot reasonably be expected to arrive at the scene of a cardiac arrest in less than five minutes. Well-placed public-access AEDs may save the lives of countless young athletes.


AED.com and Cardio Partners offers CPR, first aid, AED, and bloodborne pathogen training courses in all 50 states in traditional classroom settings and in blended learning courses. To learn more about our courses or to equip your school’s athletic facilities with an AED, call our team at 866-349-4362 or email Cardio Partners at customerservice@cardiopartners.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Commotio Cordis: Secret Killer in Young Athletes

Safety always comes before the game, especially when young people are involved. With sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) being the number one cause of death among student athletes, parents and coaches must be prepared for such an unimaginable event. Often times, SCA occurs in student athletes for one of these three reasons: A blow to the chest (Commotio Cordis); structural heart defects (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Marfan syndrome, etc.); or electrical heart defects (long QT syndrome, Wolff-Parkinson White Syndromes, etc.).

Commotio Cordis is Latin for “agitation of the heart,” which occurs when there is a blow to the chest between heartbeats. This can trigger a SCA. According to a report by the UT Southwestern Medical Center, many of these incidents take place when youths are playing baseball, where the ball has the ability to travel at very high speeds. For example, when a student athlete is struck in the chest with a baseball, the heart will go into ventricular fibrillation. This means the heart will begin an uncoordinated quivering, and unless an external automatic defibrillator (AED) is present to shock the heart back into its appropriate rhythm, it will eventually stop.

Though Commotio Cordis is considered a rare event, is still the second most common cause of sudden death among athletes. It is most common in teenage boys, usually dropping off around the age of 20. The age factor —according to the UT report — could be related to the strengthening of the chest wall and a decline in playing sports after high school. Regardless, coaches and parents should learn to recognize the signs of Commotio Cordis in order to ensure the right precautions are taken for the safety of these athletes.

Be AED and CPR ready should you notice any of the below risk factors in a young athlete, especially if it follows trauma to the chest:

  • Fainting or seizures during or after exercising
  • Any indication of chest pains
  • Unexplained shortness of breath or long time to catch breath

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