Cubs’ outfielder Tyler Colvin was severely injured by the barrel of a broken bat as he ran from third to home in a game against the Florida Marlins on September 19, 2010. While Colvin was hospitalized as a precaution against a collapsed lung, the more serious threat in such an incident is the blow to the chest itself. It is not that uncommon for a blunt object striking the chest in the area of the heart to result in ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening condition known as commotio cordis, or concussion of the heart. It does not have to be a very hard blow to cause commotio cordis and aid has to be rendered quickly for the victim to survive. Some studies have shown that a ball (or other blunt object) traveling as slow as 40 mph can cause commotio cordis. Since even a child can throw a baseball at that velocity, it is especially dangerous for youngsters who are struck on the chest. In fact, commotio cordis is one of the leading causes of death among young baseball players ages 5 to 14.
In my research on game-related fatalities, I have found 41 bat-related player fatalities and 14 bat-related fan fatalities. Some of these involved blows to the head, others to the chest. Only one of these was the result of a broken bat. On April 27, 1940, Charles S. Jones of Hampton, NH, was watching four friends having batting practice. When the batter fouled off a pitch, the bat broke near the handle. The barrel of the bat struck Jones over the heart, causing almost instant death, a sure case of commotio cordis.
With bats exploding at what appears to be greater frequency, my fear is that it is only a matter a time before a player or fan is killed during a major league or minor league game.