Chris Pronger tells the story of his own experience with horrific heart trauma

Chris Pronger tells the story of his own experience with horrific heart trauma

Chris Pronger tells the story of his own experience with horrific heart trauma

NHL legend Chris Pronger took to Twitter on Wednesday to share the story of his experience with commotio cordis, the same heart attack that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered in early January.  (Getty Images)
NHL legend Chris Pronger took to Twitter on Wednesday to share the story of his experience with commotio cordis, the same heart attack that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered in early January. (Getty Images)

On January 2, the entire sports world held its breath when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

After tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, Hamlin was shot in the chest which sent his heart into cardiac arrest. Hamlin was thought to have suffered a heart attack known as commotio cordis, a rare but potentially fatal disruption of the normal heart rhythm resulting from a heavy blow to the chest. Support from around the world rushed in as he was given before he was taken to hospital where he spent a week recovering.

In solidarity, legendary NHL defenseman Chris Pronger offered an intimate and detailed account of his own experience with the phenomenon through a Twitter thread on Wednesday.

On May 10, 1998, Pronger and the Blues of St. Louis faced the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. During the third period, Pronger blocked a slap shot that hit him in the chest — just to the left of his heart — and struggled to the bench, eventually collapsing to the ice in a similar fashion to Hamlin.

“I passed out while on the ice, but before I passed out, I was able to get up and stumble forward a few steps before collapsing,” Pronger said via Twitter. “When the coach picked me up, my eyes had rolled back in my head and my lips had turned blue. He took off my helmet and felt a pulse.”

Feeling nothing, the trainer began performing chest compressions and CPR, restarting Pronger’s system and making him the first athlete to survive commotio cordis at the time and only the fourth person to survive the cardiac event known to doctors up to that point. After spending the night in the hospital and the next 24 hours on a heart machine, he was cleared to play the next game.

Here is the video of the incident.

However, there was still the mental aspect that Pronger struggled with, not knowing if he could play freely and forget the near-death experience he had just days before, but the overwhelming support he received from fans and teammates motivated him to continue to he plays.

“As I was leaving the ice from warmups, I thought to myself, ‘how can I not play in this game?’ What an environment to be a part of,” Pronger said. “The roar of the crowd when I skated on the ice for the game was something to behold.”

Pronger went on to play more than 1,100 games in an 18-year career and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, going down as one of the toughest players in NHL history.

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