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Physician’s Quick Action Saves Teen Athlete’s Life at Keystone State Games

August 4, 2008

A high school baseball player from the Harrisburg area is looking forward to enjoying the rest of his summer after surviving a near-fatal injury, thanks in part to life-saving action by a Drexel University College of Medicine physician.

David Berkson, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family, Community & Preventive Medicine, was volunteering as assistant chief medical officer of the Keystone State Summer Games in York last week when Capital Scholastic catcher Kyle Hollingsworth was hit in the chest by a foul tip. Even though he was wearing a chest protector, the 17-year-old's heart stopped and he collapsed on the field.

Berkson was on his way to cover a nearby track meet when he got the call. "We were told there was a situation at the baseball field," describes Berkson, who also serves as chief medical officer of the Pennsylvania Senior Games. "But when I got to the field, I saw this boy on the ground with his eyes and mouth open and his face blue. He had no vital signs."

Two interns from Crozer Medical Center who were covering the baseball game performed CPR on Hollingsworth until Berkson arrived with a portable defibrillator, which he used to restart the teen's heart on the field. Hollingsworth was then taken to York Hospital and released two days later, showing no signs of damage other than minor memory loss.

Berkson describes the injury as a very rare occurrence known as commotio cordis. "It's when the heart takes a direct blow at a very specific time of the electrical cardiac cycle and it causes cardiac arrest." The survival rate from commotio cordis is only 15 percent. 

"We are very lucky that we had a medical team there that did exactly what needed to be done," said Berkson. "All of the medical staff are volunteers who cover these sporting events hoping our services are never needed. But this was one time we were very happy to be in the right place at the right time."