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Commotio cordis

Mark S Link, MD
Section Editor
Peter J Zimetbaum, MD
Deputy Editor
Brian C Downey, MD, FACC


Commotio cordis, which translates from a Latin origin as "agitation of the heart," is defined as sudden cardiac death secondary to relatively innocent chest wall impact. As one of the more common causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes (along with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congenital anomalies of the coronary arteries), commotio cordis has received significant media attention because of the increased awareness of sudden cardiac death that occurs during sports [1-6].

The epidemiology, potential mechanisms, treatment, and primary prevention of commotio cordis will be discussed here. Other common causes of sudden cardiac death are discussed in detail separately. (See "Overview of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death" and "Risk of sudden cardiac death in athletes" and "Sudden cardiac arrest in the absence of apparent structural heart disease" and "Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: Assessment and management of ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death risk".)


Reports of sudden cardiac death following chest trauma have appeared in the medical literature since the 1700s [7]. While the exact incidence of commotio cordis remains unknown, mostly due to a lack of systematic reporting of cases, commotio cordis has been reported as the second most common cause of sudden death in athletics (behind hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) [6].

In the mid-1990s, the National Commotio Cordis Registry was established in the United States as a means of collecting data systematically on cases of commotio cordis.

Since the National Commotio Cordis Registry was established, data on over 200 confirmed cases of commotio cordis have been published [3,8]. Some notable findings from the registry include:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 11, 2017.
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