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Blows to the Chest Up Death Risk for Lacrosse Players
Date:8/10/2009

n high school and college lacrosse players, who were 18 years old on average.

Of that group, 19 died -- 10 after being hit in the chest, including four goalies who were wearing chest protectors. Most of the others who died had preexisting heart disease, the study reported.

The overall mortality rate for lacrosse was about the same as that found in basketball, baseball, football and other sports involving physical contact, although higher than that seen in softball, swimming and track and field.

But the mortality rate for deaths attributed to commotio cordis was higher in lacrosse than in all other sports except hockey. It accounted for 43 percent of all deaths in the sport, according to the study. Deaths from commotio cordis occurred in lacrosse at more than double the rate for baseball, about 15 times greater than for football, 20 times greater than for soccer, 42 times greater than for wrestling and 54 times greater than for softball.

Wearing a chest protector is not mandated in all locales, though "there's no question chest protectors are the best way to go," Chinitz said. "They're just a hassle to wear."

The study's authors also contended that commercially available chest protectors are not adequate. Several researchers indicated that they were working on better versions.

Steve Stenersen, president and chief executive of U.S. Lacrosse, the governing body for the sport, stated that the organization "has made this issue a priority for a number of years, and we have coordinated, funded and/or supported a number of educational and research initiatives focused on commotio cordis."

The organization is trying to set up manufacturing standards for chest protectors that would reduce the risk of commotio cordis, he said, and also is working to reduce the price of automatic external defibrillators for the lacrosse community.

More information

The American Heart Association
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