Teen Was Wearing A Chest Protector, But It Wasn't EnoughBy Tony Aiello

GARFIELD, N.J. (CBS 2) — Family and friends were gathering at a funeral home Monday night to mourn the loss of a talented teenage athlete.

A padded chest protector wasn’t enough to prevent a fatal injury when he was hit by a pitch.

A tribute in lights was held at Garfield High School, where grief counselors were helping students after the sudden death of 16-year-old Tommy Adams.

“Everyone’s, like, really broken up over it,” one student told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

“It’s pretty sad, that someone could die so young, and they’re wearing their protective equipment and stuff,” James Rochester added.

Tommy’s grief-stricken dad was struggling to accept what happened.

“My best friend’s gone. I just dropped him off, now he’s not here. It’s just hard to think, can’t fathom it,” Thomas Adams said.

The teen was wearing catcher’s gear at an indoor winter baseball practice. He was hit by a pitch in the chest and was dead within minutes.

Aiello put on a chest protector to get a sense of the kind of protection it provides. And with it on, he said it’s hard to imagine a thrown baseball hitting it could cause a fatal injury, but doctors said under certain tragic circumstances it can happen.

Like when a ball hits the chest within a 10- to 20-millisecond period.

A pediatric cardiologist told Aiello a chest protector won’t stop an injury called “commotio cordis.”

It happens when something impacts the chest at just the right moment in the cardiac cycle, disrupting the heart’s normal rhythm.

“Where the heart is quivering, or shivering, it’s not really pumping efficiently at all, and that’s basically a lethal rhythm,” Dr. Fuad Kiblawi said.

Nationwide, “commotio cordis” strikes about three young athletes a year.

Like his Yankees hero Thurman Munson, Tommy Adams died too soon.

Experts said a 40 mph pitch is all it takes to cause the fatal heart rhythm.

Tony Aiello

Comments (16)
  1. tayla says:

    i am so sorry for youre loss i am keeping you up in my prayers>:(

    1. tasha says:

      i am so glad for you baby girl

  2. Brandy petersen says:

    My oldest son Jordan suffered SCA from Commotio Cordis at varsity football practice on September 7 this year, 2010. Thanks to our local fire department and their donation recently of a portable AED and fast acting athletic trainer and assistant coach (who is also an off duty Port Orange, FL police officer) my son was brought back to three times. He had no heartbeat, no pulse and was not breathing three separate times. If an AED is not used in cases of Commotio Cordis with-in 3 min. the chance of survival is almost 0%! Jordan is almost back to himself, though he suffered severe short term memory loss for more than a week after the incident. My family was so lucky that all the prices fell into place and Jordan was saved! We have started a charity for this cause in hopes of helping spread the discussion of how important it is to have AEDs on the field or court, anywhere our loved ones, especially our children are involved in athletic activities. Beyond stimulating the conversation we are raising money thru the sale of t-shirts based on a photo of Jordan hugging the AED that saved his life. The website is http://www.shirts4thecause.com. We are working with our fire department to use the money raised to provide portable AEDs, like the one that saved Jordan , to other school athletic departments that do not have them. Please contact me thru the shirts4acause.com website if you know of a school who’s athletic department does not have an AED!
    Brandy Petersen
    To read Jordan’s story search the web for ‘Jordan Petersen Spruce Creek football’

  3. Erika says:

    For those who dont already have one at their school or their childrens school PLEASE insist on having an available AED at ALL times. i8this death may have been prevented if only treated correctly with an AED on scene. So unfortunate and tragic a preventable death is. 🙁 I am sorry for the loss of all his friends and family.

  4. The Good Samaritan says:

    Condolences to the family…

    Hopefully there will be no lawsuits filed as this was a tragic accident.

    The Good Samaritan has spoken

  5. Fatima says:

    My prayers are with his family anf friends. I am fromthe United Arab emirates in Dubai, but I was reading this article and it brok e my heart. May God give his family the strength that they will need. God bless always,
    He will always be watching over you all. hugs to all.

  6. cheryl says:


  7. I.H says:

    I feel for the family and fiends of this poor kid but most of all I feel for the kid who through the pitch.. imagine what he/she must feel like.

  8. James says:

    A Red Sox 2nd

  9. STANLEY LIC says:


  10. Frank says:

    God Rest His Soul.

  11. M. Giacomo says:

    We need standards for chest protection ,as it stands now
    there are not mandated by the U.S. very sad,
    Baseball helmets do have standards of manufacture.
    Let’s get some valid testing done on these chest protectors in this boy’s memory.

  12. Jeffrey krantz says:

    This was a tragic accident, a death of a young athlete too young. He was training with his team, wearing all of the required protective equipment and yet………
    My condolences to his family and I can only hope the vultures/lawyers don’t ruin sports for the rest of the kids.

  13. sawney bean says:

    A tragedy, my condolences.

  14. Timmy Scott says:

    My condolences to Master Adams’ family and friends.

  15. missdiscipline says:

    Couldn’t read past this line, it brought me to tears..“My best friend’s gone. I just dropped him off, now he’s not here. It’s just hard to think, can’t fathom it,” Thomas Adams said.

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