CPR and an AED save a life on the hurling pitch

By June Shannon CPR News   |   18th Jun 2019

13-year-old boy’s life saved thanks to his mother, a nurse, who commenced CPR and the application of an AED.

Doctors have described CPR training and rapid access to AEDs as lifesaving measures in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

Writing in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Journal, doctors in Galway University Hospital and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, described a very rare case of a teenage boy who suffered a cardiac arrest after being struck by a sliotar in the chest during a hurling match.

According to the case report, the blow from the sliotar caused “commotio cordis,” a rare but important cause of sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Commotio cordis (CC) is an extremely rare condition which causes the heart to stop beating due to a heavy blow to the chest and results in sudden cardiac arrest.

This was the first ever reported case of commotio cordis in Ireland caused by a sliotar, but it has been described in other sports.

The doctors go on to state that the boy’s life was saved thanks to the quick actions of his mother, a nurse, who commenced CPR almost immediately and the application of an AED.

"A nearby AED that is accessible and ready for use can also mean the difference between life and death,"

Brigid Sinnott, Resus Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

Thankfully the boy made a full recovery.

The authors stated that primary prevention of CC centres around the use of protective chest shields or soft balls. However, they added that even when worn chest shields are not 100 per cent protective against CC.

They also wrote that “replacing the sliotar with a soft ball is unlikely to be acceptable as the fundamental characteristics of the game would be significantly altered and CC is such a rare event.”

Therefore, the doctors suggested that efforts should instead be focused on the response to a cardiac arrest.

“In secondary prevention of SCD CPR training and rapid access to AEDs are lifesaving measures, as seen in this case. Indeed, prompt resuscitation and access to AEDs are associated with increased survival rates in CC, which are now as high as 58 per cent.”

“We believe that prompt access to existing, well maintained AEDs, effective CPR and integration with emergency services will improve survival in out of hospital cardiac arrests whether from rare causes like CC or more common causes,” they concluded.

Commenting Brigid Sinnott, Resus Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “Time matters in the event of a cardiac arrest. By recognising a cardiac arrest early, calling the emergency services and starting CPR you really can make a difference to survival. A nearby AED that is accessible and ready for use can also mean the difference between life and death. My advice to clubs would be to have their AEDs in a place where everyone can see them, make sure they are stored in the correct cabinet and that it is checked regularly to ensure it is in working order. There is no point in having an AED if it is not working or inaccessible.”

The Irish Heart Foundation provides free CPR courses across the country. To register for a course, simply go to www.handsforlife.ie or email: handsforlife@irishheart.ie. You might just save a life.

Commotio Cordis Caused During Hurling Game Irish Medical Journal, June 2019, Vol 112, No. 6

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