Local expert says Hamlin’s sudden cardiac arrest is extremely rare

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A South Florida sports medicine specialist is providing insight into what may have caused a seemingly healthy Damar Hamlin to have a sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Matthew Fazekas, with Medical Director of Joe DiMaggio’s U18 program, is no stranger to athletes and heart issues.

“We work intimately with Broward County Schools providing training for all 29 athletic school programs.  We see athletes on the sidelines, in the clinic, in the O.R.’s. We’re familiar with the pre-planning that goes into injury prevention for athletes,” he said.

Fazekas said an incident like this, especially in football ball, is extremely rare.

“One of the thoughts that could cause a sudden cardiac arrest during a game like football is a condition called commotio cordis. This is when an impact occurs at a very specific interval in a cardiac rhythm at a specific spot in the chest that can actually lead to sudden cardiac arrest,” he said.

Fazekas said Commotio Cordis, or C.C. is extremely rare, especially in football.

“Commonly you’d see this in a sport that is a high-velocity ball sport so something like baseball, lacrosse, a hockey puck could cause a scenario like this,” he said.

Fazekas said the outcome of this kind of event depends on the preparations on the sidelines.

“The main this with a condition like Comotio Cordis is pre-injury prevention planning. It’s knowing your emergency action plan, it’s knowing you have medical staff that’s trained to get to that athlete in a timely fashion, it’s having an AED available at the sideline for some scenario like this to happen,” he said.

Sadly, Fazekas said, the overall survival rate in known victims of C.C. is only 15 percent.

According to data, of the 68 cases in which early resuscitation was instituted in less than 3 minutes, 25 percent of people, or 17 percent, who suffered from C.C. survived.

In the cases where resuscitation was substantially delayed by more than 3 minutes only 1 out of 3 or 3%, survived.

About the Authors:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.