Cardiac Incidents In Sport

Published: Mar 11, 2014 13:48pm EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Mar 11, 2014 @ 01:48pm EDT


I have never really been a big Ice Hockey fan and do not really follow any team, nor the season for that matter. However an Ice Hockey story did cross my radar yesterday which I was interested in and that was of the Dallas Stars player collapse.


There will be other, more in depth analysis of this particular story as it relates to Rich Peverley and the sport of Ice Hockey. For me though, and in this piece, I would like to reflect on the events 5,000 miles away almost two years ago to the day.


At a game against Tottenham, at White Hart Lane, against Bolton Wanderers was stopped, and then postponed as 23 year Fabrice Muamba’s heart stopped. It was close to half time in the FA Cup Quarter Final match against Spurs when the player went down. The quick reactions of the referee Howard Webb to allow the medical staff on were most likely aided by the fact that no one was around Muamba when he went to ground.


Quickly the situation was known to be more serious as players from both sides stood around, head in hands, turning away or close to tears as the medical staff tried to handle the situation. The crowd initially chanted the name of the player but as the seriousness of the situation flooded over the crowd, so did a silence. 30,000 spectators fell silent.


Now, looking back on the events, two years on we can know there was a happy outcome. The players heart had stopped for 78 minutes in total before literally being brought back to life by medics and surgeons. Weeks were spent in the London Chest Hospital and he is now fitted with a mini defibrillator which will restart his heart should it stop again.


He has retired from soccer after doctors advice and although he has had to give up the game he loves he is one of the lucky ones. The list of the not so fortunate is long and is packed with star names at the top, or close, of their game.


The name on my lips would be Marc Vivian Foe, the Yaya Toure for Manchester City before Yaya Toure graced the Nou Camp or the Etihad. Foe was on duty in the FIFA Confederations Cup with Cameroon in 2003 when he collapsed on the pitch and later died in hospital, he was 28. Now he was only on loan to City but there were plans of making that move a permanent one for the following season and the player scored the last Manchester City goal at their own ground, the iconic Maine Road. A tribute plaque to him can be found at the Etihad’s memorial garden.


Seven months later, in a game for Benfica against Vitoria, Miklos Feher collapsed and died on the field of play, he was four years younger than Foe.


The list of Association Footballers who have died since the Foe incident in 2003 is staggering. In the decade following that tragedy the sport has lost almost 50 players. All but a small number died from cardiac incidents and all but seven were aged 30 or under.


Death while playing the game is not new though and the first record I found was of a player named William Cropper who died in a game on the 13th January 1889 aged 26 from a ruptured bowel while playing against Grimsby Town. Most of the early deaths were from complications from what we would now consider minor things and treatment of those. One player got blood poisoning and tetanus after breaking an arm. Tetanus was in fact the cause of a few in the early days. My own Manchester City lost a player who died after a gashed knee, received in a game, turned septic.


Leeds City in 1906 lost David Wilson, aged 23, to a cardiac incident. Wilson was a heavy smoker, which no doubt contributed, but also tried to return to the pitch. Six months later and Manchester United lost Tommy Blackstock when he collapsed in a game against St Helens after heading a ball.


Worrying though from the end of the second World War to the new Millennium, only 23 players died on the pitch. Some were due to lightning strikes and some from medical conditions and the increase has led the governing body, FIFA to adopt a mandatory test. The Pre-Competition Medical Assessment (PCMA) was already in place in some countries but not all.


The soccer medical staff available on the sidelines also are more competent than in past years. A club doctor and medical team now are available on the sidelines where once there was only a physio with a bucket, sponge and ‘magic’ spray. Most club doctors, in the Premier League at least, now have so many letters after their name they could start their own alphabet.


The medical regulations for this current Premier League season states that a club shall also employ a crowd doctor along with the club doctor and senior physiotherapist. The crowd doctor of course can deal with any medical emergencies in the spectators without taking someone away from being able to react quickly to one on the field of play.


With all the medical knowledge and know how now available on the sidelines it can still take some luck and good fortune to save a life. Going back to the Muamba incident and fortunately for him that day, in the crowd, Andrew Deaner. That is Dr Andrew Deaner, a consultant cardiologist at Barts Health NHS Trust. It was he who was on the pitch within minutes of seeing the club doctor start CPR but maybe more critically it was he who expressed the desire to take Fabrice to the London Chest Hospital rather than the nearer North Middlesex. Just for reference the North Middlesex is only six minutes away from the stadium under normal driving conditions, the LCH, half an hour.


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