Commotio Cordis & Damar Hamlin’s CPR Challenge

The harrowing moment when Damar Hamlin collapsed during the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals game on January 2 is a moment many sports fanatics (and beyond) will never forget. Physicians around the country have speculated that Hamlin suffered commotio cordis, and when that hit the news, a lot of us turned to Google. In this article, we’re going to tell you what commotio cordis is, what causes it and how it’s treated, as well as what Hamlin and the American Heart Association are doing to help others survive and thrive after experiencing similar injuries.

What is Commotio Cordis?

The Cleveland Clinic defines commotio cordis as “a condition in which an abnormal heart rhythm and cardiac arrest happen immediately upon an object striking the chest directly over the heart at a very critical time during a heartbeat.” While there are less than 30 cases per year, this condition can be fatal if you don’t receive CPR and defibrillation immediately.

Athletes & Commotio Cordis

Sports Medicine Review reported that one of the first documented athlete-related cases of commotio cordis happened in 1998 when hockey defensemen Chris Pronger was struck in the chest by a puck and, shortly after, collapsed on the ice. He was unconscious for 20-30 seconds while the staff performed CPR. The same publication also stated that nearly 47% of reported commotio cordis cases happen to athletes, with the majority of cases occurring in youth sports. 


Fortunately, in the last several years, greater strides have been made to improve the survival rate and access to quick treatment, especially in youth athletics. Many organizations have purchased portable AEDs and require medical personnel and CPR certified coaches to be on the field at all times.

How is Commotio Cordis Treated & Diagnosed?

Like with most cardiac incidents, CPR should begin immediately. It’s also recommended to call 911 so emergency care can get there swiftly to provide AEDs and other necessary equipment. From there, patients will go to the hospital and be monitored and evaluated for undiagnosed heart issues. Cleveland Clinic states that commotio cordis is a diagnosis of exclusion,” which means that physicians will rule out all causes before confirming this as a diagnosis.

Damar Hamlin’s #3forHeart CPR Challenge

Proper medical treatment, specifically CPR, saved Damar Hamlin’s life. In honor and recognition of that, he has launched the #3forHeart CPR Challenge alongside the American Heart Association. This campaign centers on the importance of CPR certification and knowing the proper Hands-Only Method. Hamlin is also encouraging people to donate to AHA’s CPR education and training fund. As of today, they have raised nearly $2.5 million.