Reduced risk of sudden death from chest wall blows (commotio cordis) with safety baseballs

Mark S. Link, Barry J. Maron, Paul J. Wang, Natesa G. Pandian, Brian A. Vanderbrink, N. A. Mark Estes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Objectives. In an experimental model of sudden death from baseball chest wall impact (commotio cordis), we sought to determine if sudden death by baseball impact could be reduced with safety baseballs. Background. Sudden cardiac death can occur after chest wall impact with a baseball (commotio cordis). Whether softer-than-standard (safety) baseballs reduce the risk of sudden death is unresolved from the available human data. In a juvenile swine model, ventricular fibrillation (VF) has been shown to be induced reproducibly by precordial impact with a 30-mph baseball 10 to 30 ms before the T-wave peak, and this likelihood was reduced with the softest safety baseballs (T-balls). To further test whether safety baseballs would reduce the risk of sudden death at velocities more relevant to youth sports competition, we used our swine model of commotio cordis to test baseballs propelled at the 40-mph velocity commonly attained in that sport. Methods. Forty animals received up to 3 chest wall impacts at 40 mph during the vulnerable period of repolarization for VF with 1 of 3 different safety baseballs of varying hardness, and also by a standard baseball. Results. Safety baseballs propelled at 40 mph significantly reduced the risk for VF. The softest safety baseballs triggered VF in only 11% of impacts, compared with 19% and 22% with safety baseballs of intermediate hardness, and 69% with standard baseballs. Conclusion. In this experimental model of low-energy chest wall impact, safety baseballs reduced (but did not abolish) the risk of sudden cardiac death. More universal use of these safety baseballs may decrease the risk of sudden death on the playing field for young athletes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-877
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Athletes
  • Baseball
  • Commotio cordis
  • Sudden death
  • Ventricular fibrillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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