Lacrosse Most Dangerous for Heart-Stopping Shots

George Boiardi, killed by a lacrosse ball in the chest

After Cornell University defenseman George Boiardi was struck in the chest with a lacrosse ball in the closing minutes of a 2004 collegiate game, he collapsed to the turf, and his heart stopped. The shot he blocked had killed him.

It was literally a million-to-one shot, if not more unlikely. But in a sport as fast-growing as lacrosse, an event that uncommon will happen multiple times at the college and high school level, says a new study.

Standard chest gear may not protect young athletes from sudden death.
null

Overall, 23 lacrosse players in the United States have had the sport trigger sudden death or cardiac arrest since 1980. Four have survived the experience; the other 19 died. The likely cause in Boiardi's case, say researchers, was commotio cordis -- a condition in which an impact of blunt force arriving within a specific range of 15 thousandths of a second in the heart's beating cycle sends an electrical impulse to the heart, stopping it.

The researchers stress, however, that cardiac arrest remains rare in lacrosse.

"The message is that there are risks associated with sports in young people, but it does not appear that lacrosse, which is the fastest growing youth sport in America, is associated with excessive risk compared to other sports," said Dr. Barry Maron of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, the study's lead author.

VIDEO: Cooking healthy with children
null

The study appears in the most recent issue of Pediatrics.

While a slim majority of the deaths outlined in the study were from underlying heart conditions, commotio cordis -- which struck 10 times -- has drawn much of the attention, because death is likely preventable in many cases.

Twice in 2008 -- both at the high school level -- players blocked shots and suffered commotio cordis but were able to survive.

"When there were two episodes of commotio cordis on the field a year, a year and a half ago ... because these coaches recognized that this was a potential devastating injury ... they called for a defibrillator and both kids survived," said Dr. Jeff Mandak, a cardiologist in Harrisburg, Pa., and a member of U.S. Lacrosse's safety board.

VIDEO: How Cholesterol Affects Alzheimers
null

Mandak said that sudden death may never be fully preventable in lacrosse but that U.S. Lacrosse -- the sport's governing body -- has gone far to address the issue. A recreational lacrosse player himself, Mandak said he was invited to the safety board in 2000 by Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of U.S. Lacrosse, because of concerns about commotio cordis. U.S. Lacrosse organized a conference on the issue in 2007.

Of course, one of the main measures to avoid death by commotio cordis is to prevent it from occurring in the first place -- a function that is not served by available chest protectors.

Moran praised U.S. Lacrosse's safety efforts in that respect.

VIDEO: Omega-3 Fatty Acid Dose Recommendations
null

"U.S. Lacrosse has made a large effort to support the design of an effective chest protector," he said. "Lacrosse, in that respect, is unique among national sports organizations. They've promoted this idea and supported ongoing research to create such a chest protector. They've done that on their own volition. They should be congratulated on their efforts to make their sport even safer than it is."

There are several problems with existing chest protectors used in lacrosse. In two of the six cases of commotio cordis in the study that resulted in death (and four of the 10 cases overall), players were goalies wearing chest protectors.

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
A Gilchrist county sheriffs car sits at the end of a trailer home where 7 members of a family were slain by their grandfather in Bell, FL, Thursday, Sept., 18, 2014. The grandfather, Don Spirit, pictured, also killed himself.
Phil Sandlin/AP Photo | Gilchrist County Sheriffs Office
PHOTO:
St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church in Ecorse Michigan
PHOTO: Right, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are seen in this file photo.
Sean Gardner/Reuters|David Goldman/AP Photo