A mentally ill man escaped death after suffering ‘concussion of the heart’ when he was struck in the chest with a tennis ball.
The Swedish patient, whose identity remains anonymous, was ‘luckily revived’ using a defibrillator when he collapsed during a match.
Doctors in Malmo revealed his father watched the entire incident unfold and saw his son ‘completely lifeless’ after suffering a cardiac arrest.
It is believed his life was saved because three quick-thinking doctors happened to be at the same tennis courts and recognised his symptoms.
Skane University Hospital doctors said sports players rarely survive cardiac arrests, normally due to a lack of the life-saving gadgets in close proximity.
The Swedish patient, whose identity remains anonymous, was ‘luckily revived’ using a defibrillator when he collapsed during a match
They published the case of the 25-year-old man because it was ‘interesting to study, given that he survived the cardiac arrest’.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Cases, the doctors said: ‘Given the nature of the condition, the numbers of survivors are quite few.
‘Especially considering recreational sports, where the availability of emergency medical equipment such as an automated external defibrillator could be limited.’
The patient, who had a known intellectual disability, initially fell on his back after he was struck by the tennis ball. It is unknown how fast the ball was travelling.
However, he was able to get back up on his feet and carry on playing for nearly two minutes before he collapsed and his skin turner a blue colour.
His father, who was spectating the amateur match, revealed that he was ‘completely lifeless’, the Skane University Hospital doctors reported in the journal.
Three doctors who happened to be playing at the same tennis court then began CPR after realising he had suffered a cardiac arrest.
COMMOTIO CORDIS: THE FACTS
Commotio cordis will usually occur in boys and in young men, with the average age of a sufferer being 15.
It is a form of Ventricular fibrillation – when the heart quivers instead of pumps due to disorganised electrical activity in the ventricles – and can happen in perfectly healthy hearts.
Sadly, the fatality rate for commotio cordis without prompt treatment is around 80 per cent. Even if the sufferer is promptly given CPR and defibrillation, just 35 per cent survive.
The phenomenon is usually caused by a projectile, but is also caused by an elbow blow or other body part.
Adolescents are more likely to sustain this injury because the thorax is less developed.
It is so rare because there is a tiny window of vulnerability – a 10 to 30 millisecond portion of the cardiac cycle during a heartbeat.
After two attempts, the patient’s blood started to flow again – thanks to the use of a defibrillator. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood.
If it is not kept going with resuscitation or restarted with a defibrillator, patients can die within minutes.
Even those who receive rapid resuscitation remain at risk if they do not receive specialist treatment in hospital.
Paramedics were called and they rushed him to Skane University Hospital. They were able to notice he developed an irregular heartbeat.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) – one of the most common tests of the heart’s rate, rhythm – confirmed he had a flutter.
Doctors put the case down to a condition called commotio cordis – which is often called ‘concussion of the heart’. It is caused by blunt trauma to the chest.
It happens when the chest wall is struck at the exact nanosecond the cardiovascular system is vulnerable – leading to a cardiac arrest.
Figures are unsure how many people suffer, but it is widely thought to be the second leading cause of death in young athletes.
The case follows the death of a ‘lovely’ 24-year-old cricketer two years ago after he was struck in the chest with the leather ball during a match.
Bavalan Pathmanathan, 24, was batting for south London and Surrey club Manipay Parish SC when the tragedy happened. He died of heart failure.
And in November 2017, a healthy teenager was killed in a freak accident after he was fit in the chest by a football when out playing with his friends.
Keelan MacKnight, who was 15, was struck by the leather ball just below his ribs at the exact nanosecond that the heart’s system is vulnerable.