posted 02.07.2012 at 2.30 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Rochester Boy Dies After Struck by Lacrosse Ball

A 12-year-old lacrosse player died Tuesday, five days after he was struck in the chest by a ball during an indoor game, according to a report by YNN Rochester (N.Y.).

Tyler Kopp was hit in the chest by a ball in what the Brighton Central School District called "a routine play" during the game Thursday, a statement said. An off-duty firefighter performed CPR on Kopp, a seventh-grader at Twelve Corners Middle School, until ambulance crews arrived. Emergency medical technicians restarted Kopp's heart with a defibrillator before transporting him to nearby Strong Hospital, where he died in the early morning hours Tuesday. 

"Tyler had great sensitivity towards others, a fierce determination and a strong competitive fire. He was the iconic boy -- loving sports, the outdoors, and playing with his friends," Kopp's father Brian said in the statement provided by the Brighton Central School District.

An official cause of death was not released in the YNN Rochester report, but similar events transpired in the deaths of Northport (N.Y.) High goalie Louis Acompora in 2000, Cornell University defenseman George Boiardi in 2004 and Binghamton (N.Y.) High player John Mack in 2006. All were attributed to commotio cordis, a rare but potentially catastrophic phenomenon that results in sudden cardiac arrest.

Commotio cordis occurs when an individual receives a blow to the chest in a very precise spot over the heart at a very precise moment in the cardiac cycle. The blunt blow -- which doesn't even need to have extreme force -- imparts an electric charge to the heart, causing ventricular fibrillation in an otherwise normal heart. Acompora and Boiardi were struck in the chest by a ball; Mack was hit by a stick. Seven of nine lacrosse-related cardiac deaths reported to US Lacrosse since 1983 have been attributed to commotio cordis.

In June 2011, Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) High sophomore Dan Cochran, playing for a summer all-star team, survived an episode of commotio cordis after he was revived by an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on site. Portable AEDs help increase the likelihood of surviving sudden cardiac arrest by shocking the heart back into its normal rhythm.

The Kopp family has requested privacy, a hospital spokesperson said.

“The national lacrosse community mourns the tragic passing of Tyler Kopp today and, on behalf of US Lacrosse, I want to extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family and friends,” US Lacrosse President and CEO Steve Stenersen said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “There is nothing comparable to the loss of a child for a family and a community, and we understand and respect the family’s request for privacy.”

US Lacrosse, which owns and publishes Lacrosse Magazine and, has taken a leadership role among sports-based organizations to address commotio cordis and increase access to AEDs. In 2007, the organization partnered with Cardiac Science to make AEDs more affordable to lacrosse leagues and chapters and to provide AED/CPR training through the US Lacrosse AED Grant Program. US Lacrosse also hosted the first commotio cordis summit in Baltimore in May 2007, bringing together leading researchers, medical experts and equipment manufacturers. Among those in attendance were the families of Acompora, Boiardi and Mack.

Since Louis' death, the Acomporas have also taken a leading role in increasing the access to AEDs. They established the Louis Acompora Foundation, the primary mission of which is to lobby all states to pass laws requiring schools to have a defibrillator. In 2002, New York became the first state to pass such a law.