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The importance of Automated External Defibrillators

DEFIBRILLATORS in general are used when there is an emergency that requires the heart to get an electric shock for it to establish its normal function.
Previously defibrillators were only a feature in hospital settings.

However with medical emergencies such as Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) becoming common in football, the emphasis is on the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at several stadiums.
It is important to realise that despite the cause of these sudden cardiac arrests and deaths well documented, the challenge is on the active prevention of sudden cardiac deaths on the field of play.
This is reason why discussing the importance of having an AED within reach comes in handy.
An AED is a piece of equipment that is used to administer an electric shock to an individual with a sudden cardiac arrest.
The electric shock is applied to the chest in order to restore the normal functioning of the heart.
The SCA can happen either in training or during a competitive match.
Many footballers have died on the field of play and this is the reason why an AED is important to prevent this.
Many people are quite conversant with the cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
However the CPR alone is not enough to save a player or indeed any person who suddenly collapses as result of sudden cardiac arrest.
For any medical team to successfully resuscitate an athlete, they need to recognise that a sudden cardiac arrest has happened.
Quick recognition of a SCA and early CPR are key to survival.
In many instances when sudden cardiac deaths have occurred, it takes too long before the CPR could start and ultimately delay in the use of an automated external defibrillator to restart the heart, which has stopped pumping.
I must state that issues relating to resuscitating players with a Sudden Cardiac Arrest are serious if a comprehensive medical care is to be provided to players or athletes in general.
In our current state, medical teams especially those with Super Division sides need to be conversant on issues relating to the use of an AED and resuscitation in general.
Let me highlight just how serious a cardiac arrest is especially if there is delay in shocking the heart, which has stopped beating suddenly.
If the delay is prolonged after cardiac arrest and the time the heart receives a shock from an AED, then the chances of survival are markedly reduced.
However if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is started as soon as the AED is being brought, then the chances of survival are increased.
If the heart that has stopped functioning suddenly is given the first shock within three minutes after collapsing then the chances of overcoming the cardiac arrest are more than 90 percent and that is what has to be the target.
FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are taking this issue of having AED’s seriously and in future no referee will be allowed to start a game if there is no AED by the sideline preferably just were the fourth match official sits.
This will enable trained personnel to have access to the collapsed player in a shortest possible time so that lives are saved.
It has to be appreciated that CPR alone is not enough to bring back a person to recovery after a sudden cardiac arrest but it has to be performed with the AED within reach.
There is a pneumonic which amplifies the importance of an AED by the sidelines.
It is called ABC. I know some of my colleagues will view this as the A standing for securing the airway, B for breathing and C for circulation but this is totally different.
In this case the A stands for automated external defibrillator; B stands for blow the whistle and C stands for commence the game.
This in itself shows that the game can only commence when an AED is available and it is the only time the referee will blow the whistle.
I agree with the vision my colleagues who I sit with on the FIFA medical committee have to see to it that sooner than later all football matches across the world will be played with the presence of an AED on the sidelines.
For questions and comments write to Dr Kabungo Joseph
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