AEDs are life saving on and off the baseball diamond

little-league-baseball-playIt’s awareness week for a condition called commotio cordis, which occurs in children between the ages of 9 and 15.

When a child suffers a blow to the chest, particularly from a ball, he may immediately go into cardiac arrest. It’s life-threatening, yet very preventable. An AED can be life saving to these kids.

Today, I had the chance to speak with WAKR host Ray Horner about this topic and what we can do to prevent these devastating situations.

June is the peak month and baseball is the No. 1 sport where this happens most often.

Together, let’s raise awareness and save lives in northeast Ohio.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.


HORNER: Our good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni, now onboard with us from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Another awareness week and you want to get the word out, Joe.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, Ray. Thanks for the opportunity to talk this week about awareness of a life-threatening, but preventable problem for kids in sports — and it’s younger kids.

For that reason, because young kids are so strong and healthy, people don’t think that we can have sudden death related to sports. But, it happens every year in this country — 3, 4, 5 times a year in different places in this country.

There’s a condition called commotio cordis and, unfortunately, sometimes we get caught up in these big medical names.

But what this means is, it’s a sudden cardiac death that occurs several times in the country while kids are playing sports.

There’s a specific area in the chest that when they get a blow to this area, particularly from a ball — they call it a projectile, but the size of a ball seems to be the size that causes this.

There’s a disruption in their normal heart rhythm. Their heart goes into ventricular fibrillation when hit with a ball in the chest.

It doesn’t happen when these kids are older. It’s rare over age 15. It’s rare under age 9. It occurs between ages 9 and 15 or so. That’s the peak.

Baseball is the No. 1 sport. June is the No. 1 month. So in sports medicine, this week is awareness week because it’s totally preventable and we can save lives if we think about it.

What will happen is you’ll be at a Little League game, a kid gets hit right in the chest wall and collapses a second or two after getting hit. And people try all kinds of other things or they just get anxious about it and they don’t do the right things.

The real key is to, first of all, call 9-1-1. That’s the key call because the most life-saving thing is getting an AED to the chest of a kid.

Most Little League baseball diamonds do not have an AED present right at the baseball field. Some do, most don’t.

Then, start CPR and keep CPR going, keep the circulation going, until the emergency medical vehicle gets there with an AED and that’s life saving.

Before AEDs, 95 percent of kids that had this condition would die. CPR alone does not save them. But while we’re doing CPR and when an AED comes and shocks the heart, the kid’s heart will start back up again.

There are so many great stories of kids living a perfectly fine, productive life after their life was saved versus stories where a kid got hit in the chest, nobody knew what to do, everybody panicked and nobody called for an AED, and the kid died before their eyes.

This is the peak month in June. Baseball is the No. 1 sport. It rarely [happens] in lacrosse; rarely in other sports.

The most recent case we had, Ray, was a Cuyahoga Falls 13 year old a couple years ago. There also was a kid in Columbus two years ago. It’s devastating when it happens, so thanks for giving me the opportunity.

Let’s talk about being aware, if this would happen in our community, to do the right things and save the life of a young athlete.

HORNER: And now in the sports industry, I see, Joe, for the first time all over the place are those light chest protectors that the kids can wear for infield and while they’re batting. They don’t seem to be too evasive, but I’m sure that’s a step in protection.

DR. CONGENI: It is a step in protection and, boy, hearing it from a guy in the trenches like you to see that the chest protectors are back, [that’s great]. It’s kind of been an on-again, off-again [thing].

There’s another one called a heart guard that sits right over the chest where the heart is and won’t allow this injury. And there’s some discussion about that being a primary prevention. Exactly right, Ray.

Secondary prevention, though, is call for that AED. Get that rhythm turned around, shock the heart and you’ll save a life.

And I appreciate the opportunity as we head into this beautiful time of our year to talk about that and maybe save a life in northeast Ohio.

HORNER: Well, as you know, I’m heavily involved these days with Little League for sure with, uh, Rocco.

DR. CONGENI: You are.

HORNER: Thanks, Joe. We’ll see you in studio next week.

DR. CONGENI: Alright, next week in studio. Thanks, Ray. Have a good week.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.


  1. Thank you for writing this article. It is so important that coaches and parents are aware of this risk. Even though its rare, they need to be prepared on what to do. I hope there are AEDs in every ballpark soon!
    I saw another great article on the same topic for AED.com. http://www.aed.com/blog/making-the-case-for-implementing-aeds-at-sporting-events/

    • chmcaweb@gmail.com' Akron Children's Hospital says:

      Thanks for your kind words of wisdom. We make every effort to get the word out to parents and youth coaches especially. Every year somewhere in this country there will be a case that occurs and knowledge and preparedness can save a life.

      Thanks again.

      Joseph A. Congeni, MD

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