Damar Hamlin: Iona baseball player shares similar injury experience

An Iona University baseball player says what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin happened to him. Nick DiCarlo, 19, was hit in the chest by a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, causing him to collapse on the field this fall.  

"He stood up and collapsed, and that’s exactly what happened to me," DiCarlo said. "It was pretty scary."

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Much like Monday night in Cincinnati, Nick remained standing for a few seconds, after the ball slammed into the center of his sternum. But then he quickly collapsed, as his teammates ran toward him, fearing the worst. His coach administering CPR, before first responders used a defibrillator and rushed him to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Westchester County, and then Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. There, doctors induced a coma and put him on a ventilator.  

"No one really knew what was going on, because it's such a rare thing," DiCarlo said. "You never really see that."

Dr. Ryan Kaple, director of the Structural & Congenital Heart Program at Hackensack University Medical Center, says when someone has a brief moment of consciousness after an impact like that, and then loses consciousness "that is classic commotio cordis."

Commotio cordis is when there is a direct impact to the chest wall, directly over the surface of the heart, throwing off the normal heart rhythm. It’s rare, but more common in young athletes, and in karate, lacrosse and baseball.  

In Nick's case, he was put into a coma for three days, with no memory of the incident. But was able to quickly recover, finishing the semester and practicing with the team, within four weeks.

"I can say I’m back, I’m healthy now,’ DiCarlo said. "I have faith that Damar will come back healthy as well."

Dr.  Kaple says what saved both Hamlin and Nick's life, was the first level of care on the field, the bystanders who knew and immediately administered CPR and used a defibrillator, skills we should all learn.