On Monday, January 2, 2023, the world watched as the Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin suffered a medical emergency requiring him to be rushed to an emergency room by ambulance after receiving CPR on the field. This took place after Hamlin sustained a tackle, recovered, and then collapsed seconds later. Viewers quickly learned that Hamlin’s condition, at that time, was grave and he was in need of emergency interventions to save his life. After this event, many viewers were left with unanswered questions and deep concern for the victim, his teammates, family and friends. While many speculated, the medical community started a conversation as to the possibilities of what happened and why Hamlin’s condition deteriorated so quickly . Medical professionals confirmed our suspicions noting that Hamlin experienced sudden cardiac arrest due to Commotio Cordis.

Commotio Cordis is Latin for “agitation or disruption of the heart” 1 and is not a medical illness or injury but more a medical phenomenon. Commotio Cordis is a rare but lethal disruption of the heart rhythm that occurs as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart at a precise time during the cycle of a heartbeat 1 . In other words, when a victim sustains a forceful hit to the center chest area during a specific period in the hearts electrical conductive cycle, the force of the blow will disrupt the normal flow of electricity in the heart causing the same to stop beating correctly and the victim to go unconscious within seconds. The victim loses consciousness because blood stops flowing to the brain, lung and other vital organs causing the victim to stop breathing and quickly enter into cardiac arrest.

Although Commotio Cordis is most commonly attributed to high impact sports, it can happen to anyone. The “hit” sustained does not have to come from another person. Objects traveling at high speeds and striking the chest area of an individual, such as baseballs, hockey pucks, rocks or timber, can have the same impact and cause the same phenomenon to occur. One study reveals that the average age of Commotio Cordis victims range between 15 and 20 years of age 2. It also reveals that the over 90% of Commotio Cordis victims are male2. Since being identified and studied, Commotio Cordis, with immediate recognition and intervention, has universally shown favorable odds of survival. This is why Bystander CPR and AED training is so very important.

To effectively restore a normal heartbeat in victims of sudden cardiac arrest, an AED is needed. An AED or Automated External Defibrillator is a device that sends a coordinated and calculated electrical shock through the heart to reset and restore the normal movement of electricity through the muscle. As a result, the heart muscle responds by contracting causing blood to flow throughout the body. If an AED is not readily accessible, or while retrieving one, Bystander CPR is in order. CPR keeps blood flowing to all major organs including the brain, lungs and the heart itself while rescuers work to restore a heartbeat. Without either of these interventions, death is imminent for victims of sudden cardiac arrest including those to which cardiac arrest is experienced due to Commotio Cordis.

Respond1st LLC specializes in training individuals in all levels of CPR, use of an AED and First Aid. Bystander CPR takes less than 30 minutes to learn and more formal CPR training that offers a certification can be accomplished in as little as 2 hours! We also have options for those who would prefer to learn CPR on their own and in the comfort of their own homes with our Anytime CPR kits from the American Heart Association. This kit contains everything you need to learn and/or brush up on the skills of CPR and best of yet, no instructor is needed. You simply need a DVD player and a few minutes of your time.

For over 5 years, the training specialists at Respond1st LLC have been empowering ordinary people just like you to be everyday heroes, ready to act in the face of a medical emergency. We’ve taught and certified hundreds of people in this time and we are today, as our mission states, still in the business of creating a community of responders. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about how our training can help enrich your life, enhance your career and empower you to face emergencies with the confidence to turn a victim into a survival story.

We send well wishes of health and speedy recovery to Damar Hamlin and strength to his family, friends and supporters. We also send wishes of peace to the hearts and minds of all the rescuers involved.

Citations: Information in this post comes in part from resources cited below.

1 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commotio_cordis

2 – https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circep.111.962712