Commotio Cordis


Everyone and anyone is vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest, and unfortunately this means children are susceptible too.

Between 12 and 16 young people (under 35) die every week in the UK from SCA with 80% of the victims having no prior symptoms, but did you know that 270 of these will die at school?

During their growing years, children’s hearts are vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest due to the muscle still developing and strengthening until they reach adulthood.

This means that extra stress and pressure on the heart can cause issues throughout their younger years whilst there is also a condition called commotio cordis which can occur during sports and games.

Commotio cordis

Commotio cordis is a phenomenon in which a sudden blow or blunt impact to the chest causes a sudden cardiac arrest usually occurring during sports.

Generally affecting young individuals during adolescence, it is believed that the stiffening of the chest wall contributes to the decrease in incidents to older individuals. However it can also be said that the reduction in people taking part in sports after leaving school may affect the statistics.

Once there is a collision with the chest wall, the heart can go into ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Once the heart is in either of these conditions, effective and immediate CPR and the use of a defibrillator is the only way to treat it.


Although it’s not a popular sport this side of the Atlantic, baseball is considered the most common sport in which commotio cordis occurs. A number of cardiac arrest cases have occurred when the ball is pitched and hits the left chest wall over the heart.

But other sports like lacrosse, hockey, softball have also seen incidents whilst non ball based incidents in most other sports have been recorded due to physical contact like elbows, fists and helmet collisions with the chest.


How can we help prevent commotio cordis in children? Unfortunately it is not something which can directly be prevented unless you stop children from playing sports and games. They are inherently going to bump and bang themselves during every day life therefore all we can do is be as prepared as possible.

This is where having a defibrillator can make all the difference.

A defibrillator is the only form of treatment for someone who has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest along with the effective application of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately following a cardiac event.

If applied within 3-5 minutes, survival chances increase from 6% to 74% whilst chances are boosted to 90% if treatment is supplied within 60 seconds.

For more information regarding the heart, defibrillators, cardiac arrest and everything in between; check out our recently revamped FAQ page which is packed full of useful information.

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