While it seems that commotio cordis and sudden cardiac arrest are new buzzwords following the unfortunate event during the recent Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals football game, they are common speak amongst sports medicine providers, as well as other healthcare professionals.

Events like this remind us of the value of Athletic Trainers and Sports Medicine Providers, and the critical role they play in sports and keeping athletes safe. 

Orthopedic ONE has direct experience managing these difficult situations. In recent years, two of our “superhero” Athletic Trainers (as we like to call them) responded to athletes suffering from sudden cardiac arrest during play. With the quick activation of CPR and use of an AED (which we always carry), two lives were saved. Read about these amazing heroes here. These events have reinforced our standards and prompted increased efforts to prepare our Sports Medicine Partners and the community on how to be better informed and educated about sudden cardiac arrest. 

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when the heart unexpectedly stops beating thus impacting the blood flow to the brain and vital organs which can lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD). The best chance of survival for SCA is immediate care to the athlete in hopes of restoring a heartbeat ideally with the use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an automated electronic defibrillator (AED). Every minute counts. There can be various causes of sudden cardiac arrest including undiagnosed medical conditions, family history, or even commotio cordis. 

What is Commotio Cordis?

Commotio cordis is when the heart goes into an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) or sudden cardiac arrest as a result of a blunt trauma to chest wall, typically from an object or direct force. The force can come from a baseball, softball, lacrosse ball, helmet, shoulder, etc. Commotio cordis is rare as the impact must occur at a very specific and brief point of the cardiac rhythm. While protective gear may reduce the risk, it does not eliminate it.

How to be Prepared – and How to Respond

The recent spotlight of commotio cordis and sudden cardiac arrest may cause fear or doubt regarding participation (or children’s participation) in recreational sports, youth sports, or other sporting activities. Avoidance is not the answer. We should encourage continued athletic activities and participation in people of all ages. There are steps one can take to identify those at risk, have more knowledge on the subject, as well as be able to respond when an emergency does happen.


  • Ohio’s Lindsay’s Law works to educate athletes, coaches, parents, etc. regarding sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death. This is a requirement for all youth athletic participation, but should be thoroughly read and understood, not just signed.
  • Look into additional resources that can help you learn more about SCA, like this video explaining Commotio Cordis and this article with information from the Ohio Department of Health.


  • CPR courses are offered through the Red Cross and the American Heart Association (as well as many others organizations). There are different engagement levels (online, in person, skills checks, etc.).
  • The Sports Medicine team at Orthopedic ONE collaborates with our many sports partners to host CPR courses for coaches and staff, and consult regarding access and purchase of AEDs.


  • Have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for your facility and those places where you may train or play. It is important to have it written, posted and rehearsed with your staff and within your facility.
  • Our Sports Medicine team at Orthopedic ONE consults with our sports partners on the important aspects of an EAP.

The Sports Medicine team at Orthopedic ONE is comprised of Physicians, Physical Therapists and Certified Athletic Trainers who work together toward a goal of returning athletes to pre-injury condition through prevention, evaluation, treatment and education. Our goal is to keep athletes out of our office and on the field. We partner with athletic clubs, facilities and organizations throughout the region to care for thousands of athletes. Learn more about Sports Medicine Outreach at Orthopedic ONE.