Youth Athletic Gear Not Enough to Prevent Heart-Stopping Impacts, Researchers Say

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Accidents Will Happen -- but Should They?

Amid the concern over deaths in youth sports, most people would agree that no youth sport is without its dangers -- protective equipment notwithstanding.

"I am not yet convinced that more aggressive maneuvers are needed at this time," said Dr. Brian Olshansky, director of cardiac electrophysiology at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, Iowa.

"This is a problem, but the risks need to better defined in the general population before going crazy," Olshansky said.

Other experts point out that parents must be careful not to go overboard with worry.

"As a specialist in the field, this interests me, but [it] would probably scare many parents of the hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of our youth who engage in sports," Luceri said. "The emphasis should definitely be on the fact that this is rare."

"To be fair to manufacturers, these products were never designed with commotio cordis in mind," Maron said. "We don't know at this point exactly how to design a product that would have specific protection from commotio cordis. I think the information is important from an educational standpoint. Parents have a right to know all the risks of the athletic field in sports participation."

The study is an "important registry," said Dr. Douglas Zipes, distinguished professor emeritus at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington, Ind.

But he said, "They have been saying that the gear was not protective for some time, so this is not new."

Zipes says continuing research is currently being conducted to experiment with different types of chest protection.

"Until they come up with something new, there really isn't anything to recommend for parents," Zipes said.

The study may also turn an eye toward the availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at facilities hosting youth sports events.

"It is a very rare event, though heart-rending without a doubt," Zipes said. "Having an AED available is best."

However, some experts say better equipment -- and better regulatory oversight -- is also needed to keep the number of these cases to a minimum.

"Commotio cordis is a well-known problem, however, the lack of effective protective gear is previously less well documented," said Dr. Peng-Sheng Chen, director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Training Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"Certainly there is room for improvement. I think the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] should demand proper testing of the protective clothing, and that the parents should be advised to purchase only the certified items for their children," Chen said.

"This is a very devastating event for the family affected by this tragedy, and I think that most cases are preventable."

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