Player's death may be result of commotio

UMass junior would be 2nd lacrosse athlete to die from blow to the chest

May 07, 1999|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Eric Sopracasa, a junior midfielder at the University of Massachusetts, is one of only two lacrosse players known to have died after being struck in the chest with a ball, a leading cardiac researcher said.

Sopracasa, from Farmingville, N.Y., collapsed after being hit by a ball in practice Wednesday, said UMass officials. He was later pronounced dead at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. The cause of death is unknown, but the circumstances are similar to those of several young athletes who have died after being struck in the chest with a baseball or hockey puck.

Most of the reported cases of commotio cordis, or concussion of the heart, involve youth baseball or hockey players. Dr. Barry J. Maron of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation keeps track of commotio cases. Of 80 documented cases, only one has involved a lacrosse player, Maron said.

"It points out the low frequency of these events," Maron said. "There's been a lot of lacrosse played, and now only two incidents that we know of."

The commotio deaths apparently result when a blow to the chest occurs within a small window of time -- a thousandth of a second -- when the electrical rhythm of the heart is suspended between beats. The disruption of electrical activity in the heart muscle stops the heart.

Commotio is "uncommon," Maron said, although his office received reports of five possible cases within the past few days, including one youth baseball player, two youth hockey players, a 4-year-old hit with a softball and Sopracasa, who was 21.

The average age of commotio victims is about 15, he said.

Younger children are more vulnerable, he said, because the chest wall is less muscular. Researchers have recommended the use of a softer baseball, as well as chest padding for hockey and baseball players. It is not known whether Sopracasa was wearing padding at practice on Wednesday.

Schedule

Tomorrow

Men

Hobart at No. 5 Princeton, 1 No. 6 Syracuse at No. 7 Georgetown, 1 No. 11 UMBC at No. 10 Maryland, 1 No. 8 Delaware at Pennsylvania, 1

Gannon at Towson, 1

Washington College at Western Maryland, 1: 30

Army at Rutgers, 2 St. Andrew's at No. 4 Duke, 7: 30 No. 2 Johns Hopkins at No. 9 Hofstra, 6 No. 1 Loyola at No. 15 North Carolina, 7: 30

Women

NCAA quarterfinals -- Georgetown at (1) Maryland, 1; Penn State at (4) Princeton; Dartmouth at (2) Virginia; James Madison at (3) Duke

NCAA Division III quarterfinals -- Rowan-Union winner at College of New Jersey; Amherst-Colorado College winner at Bowdoin; Ursinus at William Smith; Salisbury State-Cortland State winner at Middlebury, times TBA

Villa Julie at ECAC tournament, TBA

Pub Date: 5/07/99

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