Football Sport

The growing fear of Sudden Cardiac Deaths in football players

THE question I have faced in the last few days concerns the demise of former Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote.

People are wondering if there are steps being taken by football authorities to address Sudden Cardiac Deaths (SCD).
Tiote collapsed during training at Chinese side Beijing Enterprises after a successful career at English side Newcastle United.
The death of Tiote, 30, has again left millions of soccer fans perplexed at the occurrence of such deaths on the field.
After the death of Tiote, I looked back at one of the video clips when Cameroonian midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed during a FIFA Confederation Cup semi-final match against Colombia in Lyon, France.
To win the battle against SCD, there is need for investment in the care of football players.
This is not only a problem affecting the developed world but it cuts across all the continents.
In 2016, there were three deaths of football players on the field.
On May 6, another Cameroonian international Patrick Claude Ekeng died after collapsing while playing for Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest.
FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have recognised the need to enhance medical care of players who suddenly collapse and require timely resuscitation.
This has led to FIFA and CAF allowing medical personnel to move unto the field of play without the referee’s permission whenever they suspect a sudden cardiac arrest.
The picture of Fabrice Muamba in 2013 is a typical example of a timely and well handled scenario that saved his life after he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest whilst featuring for English side Bolton Wanderers.
SCD is the most common cause of unnatural death in sports men.
This is mainly seen in young fit adults who would suddenly collapse and if nothing is done in the immediate, leads to death.
FIFA through its medical committee has renewed its commitment in responding to suspect Sudden Cardiac Arrests (SCA).
In 2007, Zambia international Chaswe Nsofwa collapsed during training at an Israeli side.
I recently had a chance to have a look at one of the ambulances meant for responding to emergencies at one of the local stadiums.
What I came to appreciate is that we are far from being ready to responding to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Though FIFA and CAF are doing their best, many clubs in Zambia do not prioritise having qualified medical personnel with knowledge on how to respond to emergencies.
Many club administrators do not feel it is important to have a complete medical team to take care of the different needs for players.
They are always thinking of attaching cost at the expense of players’ lives.
Some medical staff has assumed a role of team doctors instead of sticking to their core responsibilities.
This scenario has grossly compromised the care of the players because competences differ between a physiotherapist, clinical officer, nurse, doctor and many others.
It is vital for all medical staff to proudly practice their specific area of specialty and competence in order to avoid mismanaging players and protect life.
Football being the largest sport across the world has to focus on the prevention of sudden cardiac deaths.
The current scenario is a bad indicator that we are not doing enough in trying to save young players as a result of SCA.
The lack of qualified medical staff, competent enough to handle these has contributed to this.
Commitment by administrators at various levels in many areas of team medical requirements has to be renewed.
Each club should have a well outlined and simple emergence plan on handling players on the field of play and the eventual evacuation to the hospital.
Medical staff, the Football Association of Zambia and club administrators among others have to take an active role aimed at improving the health of players.
SCA continue to haunt the beautiful game and the growing fear by football players cannot be ignored.
For questions and comments write to: Dr Kabungo Joseph
Email: or kateulejk@gmail.


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