Doctors investigating rare sports injuries found children may die suddenly from cardiac arrest if struck in the chest during games, most often when hit by baseballs.
Often sudden deaths in athletes are blamed on heart abnormalities that result from birth defects, disease or drug abuse. However, the study identified 25 instances of children with healthy hearts who dropped dead on ball fields and playgrounds after being struck.
The children ranged in age from 3 to 19, and nine were hit by baseballs.
“The most common scenario involved a batter being struck in the mid-chest by a pitched ball, thrown with a velocity judged by witnesses not to be unusual for the game,” Dr. Barry J. Maron and colleagues from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation wrote in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.