U-M health experts able to comment on cardiac arrest

January 3, 2023
Written By:
Noah Fromson, Michigan Medicine, fromsonn@umich.edu


The University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center has experts available to speak about cardiac arrest in the wake of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsing at an NFL game Jan. 2.

Eugene Chung, cardiac electrophysiologist, professor of cardiology, team cardiologist of Michigan Athletics and 2020-23 chair of the American College of Cardiology Sport and Exercise Cardiology Leadership Council

“Damar Hamlin and his family are in our thoughts and prayers. Those of us on the outside do not have enough information to speculate on the etiology of his cardiac arrest. As the event occurred just after a collision, commotio cordis is one possibility. Commotio cordis is the condition where a precisely timed impact to the chest could cause the heart to go into ventricular fibrillation. When in VF, the heart has essentially stopped, and immediate CPR and defibrillation are critical to survival.

“Again, we do not have enough information to definitively say this is the cause. Mr. Hamlin’s cardiac arrest highlights the importance of having an emergency action plan in place, regularly practiced and rehearsed, equipped with AEDs, trained personnel in CPR and life support, and protocols for appropriate transfer to the nearest medical facility. The Bills and Bengals should be commended for their rapid response to the situation.”

Aman Chugh, cardiac electrophysiologist, professor of cardiology

“Without knowing more details about the situation in question, we cannot be definitive as to the cause of the cardiac arrest. However, commotio cordis can happen as a result of impact to the chest wall and, by extension, to the heart during a critical period of the cardiac cycle. It is an uncommon cause of cardiac arrest, but may be more likely to be seen in adolescent boys in sports such as baseball. In case of a cardiac arrest, rapid treatment is needed with CPR and, if appropriate, an AED.”

Geoffrey Barnes, cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist, professor of cardiology

“Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood because the electrical system stops functioning properly. This can have many different causes, including a heart attack. Rarely it can be caused by trauma directly to the chest. The most important thing that can be done when someone has a cardiac arrest is to start CPR promptly and hook them up to an AED. CPR will continue to pump blood to their brain and other vital organs. The AED will attempt to restart the electrical system so that the heart pumps blood on its own.”