Commotio cordis is blunt, nonpenetrating trauma to the chest resulting in irregular heart rhythm and often leading to sudden death. This article presents the epidemiology, variables leading to commotio cordis, theories on predisposing factors, diagnosis, treatment, treatment outcomes, and return-to-play recommendations.
A PubMed (MEDLINE) search for commotio cordis was conducted on July 1, 2008, and it yielded 106 results, of which 26 were used for this review, including experimental models, simulation studies, case analysis studies, case reports, general recommendation, review articles, and editorials.
There are more than 190 reported cases of commotio cordis in the United States. Forty-seven percent of reported cases occurred during athletic participation. Commotio cordis is the second-most common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes. Occurrence of commotio cordis is related to time of impact during the cardiac cycle, direct impact over the heart, the hardness and speed of the projectile, and the ineffectiveness of chest barriers. As a result, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that softer “safety” baseballs be used for youth baseball. Resuscitation using defibrillation was effective in only 15% of cases. Resuscitation within 3 minutes resulted in a survival rate of 25% (17 of 68 cases). Survival drops to 3% when resuscitation is delayed beyond 3 minutes. Survival of commotio cordis has risen from 10% to 15% since 2001. Reduced ventricular ejection fraction has been identified in some commotio cordis survivors.
Preventive measures, such as using soft “safety” balls and making automated external defibrillators available at sporting venues, can reduce commotio cordis morbidity and mortality. Chest protector designs can be improved to enhance protection. Return to play is best left to clinical judgment given that data are lacking with regard to susceptibility for reoccurrence.