Last year there were numerous reports of seemingly healthy athletes across Europe who were felled on the field by sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
Take the case of Fabrice Muamba, former midfielder for the Bolton Wanderers football club in the United Kingdom, who suffered SCA during a match in March 2012. Despite his heart being stopped for a total of 78 minutes, he survived to make a full recovery thanks in part to CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Muamba demonstrates how to use an AED in an online video and talks about his work with the Arrhythmia Alliance’s Hearts & Goals campaign to raise awareness of SCA, promote CPR training and facilitate AED placements.
Unfortunately a number of other athletes stricken with SCA last year did not survive — often because there was no AED or access was delayed.
Four weeks after Muamba’s SCA event, Italian soccer player Piermario Morosini, age 25, collapsed during a division match and died.
That same month, Norwegian Olympic swimmer Alexander Dale Oen suffered sudden cardiac arrest and died during a pre-Olympic training event at the age of 26.
Claire Squires, a 30 year old runner, collapsed and died less than a mile from finishing the 2012 London marathon.
But for 17 year old student athlete Chris McNeill of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, the outcome was a positive one. After collapsing seven minutes into a football match in July 2011, prompt medical attention from a bystander doctor and use of a defibrillator on the grounds saved his life.
With the topic of SCA at the top of their minds, the Derry City Council in Northern Ireland took action in July 2012 and unanimously voted to place defibrillators in all Derry City Council buildings and sporting facilities and train staff on their use.
Davy Boyle, known as the borough of Coleraine’s “Caring Caretaker” raised tens of thousands of pounds to pay for the placement of defibrillators throughout the local area by creating a “Defibrillators at the Heart of Every Game” campaign. Boyle conducts annual fundraising activities for a wide range of charities.
A UK study based on figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cites a rate of 8 cardiac deaths per week (1.8 per 100,000) for the 1-34 age group based on data collected between 2002 and 2005.
The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) believes the figure to be higher and states that every week in the UK, 12 apparently fit and healthy young people (aged 35 and under) die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition.
A British Journal of Sports Medicine Study reports SCA to be the leading cause of death in exercising young athletes and states: “Timely access to AEDs at training and sporting competitions permits effective management of SCA and the prevention of sudden cardiac death in athletes.”
Learn more about the author Whitney Brostrom