AED articles

Damar Hamlin’s SCA Raises Awareness for CPR and AEDs in the Sports Community

On Monday night, NFL fans anxiously watched as Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin, took a hard hit resulting in sudden cardiac arrest. This signaled to those present to initiate an Emergency Action Plan that resulted in calling 911, starting chest compressions, and retrieving their automated external defibrillator (AED). Because of the medical staff’s rapid response and AED on-site, the Heartsmart family is remaining hopeful for the Athlete’s recovery and sends many prayers to Damar Hamlin, his family, and his teammates.3

A situation like this, while never ideal, leaves an opportunity to bring awareness to the two main components of sudden cardiac arrest survival – CPR and AEDs. Many believe that sudden cardiac arrest is not something a young, healthy athlete should be concerned about, however, whenever there is a blunt trauma to the heart which tends to happen in many young athletes’ contact sports, a condition called Commotio Cordis may result.

What is Commotio Cordis?

The American Heart Association describes Commotio Cordis as “a phenomenon in which a sudden blunt impact to the chest causes sudden death in the absence of cardiac damage.”2 An impact can be considered anything from a baseball to a punch, or in Hamlin’s case, a tackle, which makes athletes a number one concern for this condition. As shown in the figure below, an impact of such force targeted at the chest wall directly over the heart creates a rapid increase in intracavitary pressure leading to an upstroke of T wave.

Upstroke of T wave
(American Heart Association, 2023)2

If Commotio Cordis is suspected among an athlete, the following may have occurred:  

  • The athlete is hit on impact by an object (baseball, bat, lacrosse ball) or person.
  • There is no sign of apparent trauma.
  • The athlete may stumble before collapsing leaving them unconscious with no pulse or breathing.
  • An AED will indicate the athlete is in ventricular fibrillation.1

For every minute delay in getting an AED shock, there is a 10% decline in survival rate for athletes, which makes using an AED as quickly as possible when signs of Commotio Cordis arise crucial.1 Unfortunately not everyone is a CPR-trained professional or can locate where the nearest AED available to prepare for an accident like this.

Coaches and parents should learn to recognize the signs of Commotio Cordis to ensure proper precautions and emergency responses are taken for the safety of their children, athletes, or even member of their community.

Be prepared for your community, team, or family by learning CPR and knowing where the nearest AED is located. If your school, business, or community center does not have an AED, encourage decision-making officials to consider the life-saving benefits of owning an AED.


1 Administrator. (2015, March 4). Commotio Cordis. Korey Stringer Institute. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from,the%20greatest%20chance%20of%20survival.

2 American Heart Association. (2023). Commotio Cordis | Circulation: Arrhythmia and electrophysiology. American Heart Association. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from

3 Provencher, M. (2023, January 4). Former NFL team doctor explains Damar Hamlin’s collapse and medical staff protocols. FOX Sports. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from

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