With football season nearly over, it’s time to kick back and watch the playoffs. But for many football-crazy (and soccer obsessed) kids, the next season is just a heartbeat away.
We’ve heard a lot this past year about the dangers of concussions, and many people are aware of the risk that football and similar sports can present for those with undiagnosed heart conditions. But what you may not know is that a heavy hit to the chest can cause heart rhythm disturbances in completely healthy, normal hearts.
I was first made aware of this phenomenon as a cardiology fellow-in-training, when a healthy gentleman showed up in our ER complaining of dizziness and shortness of breath. He had a dangerously unstable heart rhythm known as ventricular tachycardia. On questioning, it turned out that his very large dog had been so thrilled to see him that he had jumped up and head-butted my hapless patient in the chest. This hit, occurring at just the wrong time in the heart’s electrical cycle, had triggered this arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm. Had he not come in for treatment, it may have proven deadly.
A similar situation can happen in football. And while the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias are the most worrisome, a rhythm arising in the top chambers of the heart called atrial fibrillation can be devastating. That’s because while this rhythm is much less likely to cause death or fainting, it can raise the risk for stroke if it goes on for longer than a day.
Reporter Tara Haelle describes the results of a case report on just this topic, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics. In an interview with Haelle, I noted that while chest-thump arrhythmias are rare, “there is no way to know how often this may occur. It’s very likely that the rhythm problem resolves quickly without treatment in many young, healthy individuals. In that case, it is not likely to ever be diagnosed.”
“Symptoms of dizziness, unusual shortness of breath or a rapid heart rate should prompt a medical evaluation, especially if these symptoms occur after trauma to the chest. It’s especially important that coaches and others involved in sports activities be aware of the possible implications of trauma to the chest.”
To read more about the report and its significance, check out Haelle’s article at HealthDay.com
Hard Hit to Chest Triggered Irregular Heartbeat in Teen Football Player.