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Commotio Cordis is a secret killer in youth sports

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Commotio Cordis (CC) is sudden death caused by a random, non-penetrating blow to the chest by a ball, bat, stick or hand. CC is the # 2 killer in sports with 40+ million boys and girls ages 6 to 18 who play contact sports at risk.

After extensive evaluation, and following on a landmark study from Tufts Medical Center, the FDA has determined that patented HART CC pads, found in every Unequal HART chest protector, will improve safety on the sports field. Unequal has spent five years and millions of dollars pioneering composites to invent an effective deterrent to sudden death from Commotio Cordis. Now, with the FDA’s findings, Unequal is able to market their heart protectors and finally inform millions of families of the world’s first technology shown to greatly reduce risk of sudden death from CC.

Tufts’ ground-breaking, peer-reviewed, published study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, March, 2016, Development of a Chest Wall Protector Effective in Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death by Chest Wall Impact (Commotio Cordis), concluded, “It is reasonable to expect that chest protector designs incorporating these novel materials (Unequal HART) will be effective in the prevention of Commotio Cordis on the playing field.”

In 2010, Tommy Adams suddenly collapsed after he was hit in the chest by a baseball pitch. The 16-year-old was reportedly wearing his mask, chest protector and shin guards, but his gear was not enough to save his life. Adams died from commotio cordis. The phenomenon is extremely deadly, with over two-thirds of reported cases resulting in death. This is but one of too many stories that have come to Unequal’s attention over the years. And in many cases, the victim was wearing chest protection.

The danger of commotio cordis is not as well known to parents of youth athletes as concussions. Yet it is the leading cause of fatalities in baseball and most common in the nation’s fastest growing sport, lacrosse, according to a study in the September 2009 journal, Pediatrics. While it is rarer than concussion occurrences, it is certainly more deadly. In order for commotio cordis to take place, an object must hit directly over the heart at a specific time between beats. The impact de-synchronizes the heart’s rhythm, resulting in a failure to pump blood and, thus, cardiac arrest. It is most common among teenage boys, especially those who play baseball, lacrosse or other contact sports, because of their under-developed thoracic cages.

If commotio cordis does occur, treatment must be quick to be effective. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and precordial thump (a process that aims to realign the heartbeat using repeated blows to the sternum) are commonly used to reverse the fibrillation, but success is rare. The presence of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) dramatically increases the chance of survival, however a lack of AEDs on-site means an EMS must be called. By the time the paramedics arrive, an average of twelve minutes later, the victim only has a 5 percent chance of surviving due to discontinuation of oxygen to the brain.

Preventative measures may also be taken, such as teaching players how to turn their bodies to deflect an impact from the chest and wearing protective padding like the chest shields traditionally worn by catchers in baseball, but these measures have not been very effective. Deflection is not a guaranteed technique, and some reports have even shown that traditional protective padding offers no defense, and may actually increase the risk of injury by providing a false sense of protection to athletes.

Unable to rely upon this supposedly protective padding, many victims’ families have focused their efforts on standardizing the presence of AEDs at youth athletic events. However, upon hearing of Adams’ tragedy and hearing and learning more about commotio cordis, Rob Vito, CEO of Unequal Technologies, hoped to offer a more viable solution. Unequal was already manufacturing chest protectors made from military-grade composites for professional athletes, and Vito saw an opportunity to apply that technology to equipment made for adolescents.

Working with researchers at Tufts University, Vito and his team developed some additional technology with serious protective qualities. In March of 2016 the Tufts study was published. Tufts Medical Center, the preeminent authority on CC, with its 20+ years of research on the dynamics underlying the tragic medical phenomenon of Commotio, had previously tested and concluded that commercially available chest protectors do virtually nothing to stop CC. Unequal’s HART is the world’s first heart protection shown to credibly safeguard at-risk athletes from this deadly killer.

Mark Link, MD, a board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist, leading worldwide authority on Commotio and co-author of the Tufts study, has led and worked with a team of cardiac and medical professionals for decades seeking a solution to CC. He has authored or participated in over 30 medical papers and studies on the disease. “I am excited to have played a role in discovering a technology that offers excellent protection against Commotio Cordis," said Link.

Jeffrey Mandak, M.D., a board-certified Cardiologist and member of the US Lacrosse’ Science and Safety Committee, states, “Commotio kills young, healthy athletes often with parents standing nearby, horrified. It has been frustrating to know that chest protectors, in several studies, have been shown to be of no benefit. Unequal changes all that.”

“It’s like our competitors are selling 8-tracks and we have MP4s,” Vito explains. Considering that any player on the field is at-risk, HART protection includes the HART Pads and HART Shirts for any player, any position, any sport, plus lacrosse HART Goalie chest protectors and baseball HART Catcher chest protectors. They are thin, lightweight, flexible, comfortable and each contains patented tech that is ergonomically placed to protect the heart area. Each Unequal product is backed by a ‘Medical Assurance Policy’ that reimbursesco-payments up to Five Hundred ($500) Dollars.

In addition to HART protection, Unequal offers protective supplemental head gear and ultra-light body armor, including insoles, to help protect the rest of the body. Vito believes the application of Unequal’s technologies is limitless, and that his company's proactive mission to help reduce risk in sports with battle tested technology adapted from the military will continue to revolutionize the sports industry one league, one team, one player at a time.

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