East Texas doctor explains commotio cordis which some speculate could have caused Buffalo Bills player’s collapse

East Texas doctor explains commotio cordis which some speculate could have caused Buffalo Bills player’s collapse
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - It was a shocking moment for football fans across the nation Monday night, when Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field following a play. Hamlin remains in critical condition after the 24-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest following a hard hit from a Bengals player during Monday night’s game.

While it’s not yet clear what caused his cardiac arrest, some believe it could be an emergency condition called commotio cordis.

Interventional cardiologist with UT Health East Texas Gaurav Patel, MD, RPVI, FACC said, “Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating, or the heart goes out of rhythm. It’s like a malignant heart rhythm. It essentially eliminates the blood supply or the blood oxygen delivery to the brain and basically the person passes out and loses consciousness.”

Patel said commotio cordis is rare, but occurs when a blunt, non-penetrating chest trauma occurs to the interior portion of the chest.

“It doesn’t lead to any structural damage to the heart itself. It’s basically an arrhythmic, which means it’s related to the electrical disturbance of the heart,” he said. “When the heart goes without rhythm, called the ventricular fibrillation after the blunt chest trauma, that’s what we call commotio cordis.”

The moments following the hit are crucial for a better chance at survival. Patel said that data shows that a person who gets CPR, with a shock, in the first minute, has a survival rate close to 90 percent.

“Ninety percent or more. With every one minute delay in the CPR, the survival almost drops to about 7 to 10 percent, almost every minute when the defibrillation is delayed,” Patel said.

He cited research that shows younger adults are at an increased risk for commotio cordis ... It’s because when they get older the chest gets biologically matured, and the risk of commotio cordis would be pretty less,” he said. “But it’s more common in the younger athletes, competitive athletes, and again it’s more common in the males.”

Again the specific cause of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest has not yet been released.

While this is more of a freak incident, other genetic heart conditions can sometimes be identified through screenings.

The NFL announced that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week.