Towards the end of the first half, the 29-year-old midfielder fell face down and stood still for several minutes as his teammates gathered around him and medical staff rushed onto the pitch to revive his heart.
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Eriksen had suffered cardiac arrest and required life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the field before being taken to hospital.
It was a familiar sight that football fans have seen before.
In 2012, England player Fabrice Muamba’s heart stopped beating for 78 minutes and he nearly died after collapsing on the pitch during an FA Cup match. He was 23 at the time.
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In 2019, former Spain captain and decorated goalkeeper Iker Casillas was rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack while training for his Portuguese club Porto.
Other professional footballers and athletes have also died from cardiac arrest.
Even though events are rare, young and fit athletes are not immune to heart problems and there are several reasons for this, experts say.
“These people can train and adapt and become extremely fit and extremely capable athletes with extraordinary heart function and general physiology,” said Jack Goodman, professor of cardiovascular exercise physiology at the University of Toronto.
“But they’re vulnerable at the right time with the right trigger to have this type of electrical dysfunction that causes severe arrhythmia that could lead to arrest and a fatal outcome,” he added.
In the United States, approximately 100 to 150 sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) occur each year during competitive sports, according to the American College of Cardiology.
The rate of sudden cardiac arrest during competitive sports is around 0.76 cases per 100,000 athletes per year, according to a 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nearly 44% of athletes survived until discharge from hospital, according to the study.
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So, what causes athletes to have sudden cardiac arrests?
In most cases, athletes have an underlying heart defect that may have been inherited or go undiagnosed, according to cardiologists.
“Exercise probably acts as a trigger,” Goodman said. “And the intensity of the exercise… can make this heart particularly vulnerable to an arrhythmia that can lead to fatal outcome.«
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But the jury is still out on whether intense physical activity actually causes the cardiac arrests, he added.
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A variety of heart conditions can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. One of them is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a genetic disease that leads to thickening of the heart.
Either way, electrical instability triggers cardiac arrest, said Amer Johri, a cardiologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
“Sports where you have higher stress levels, such as basketball and soccer as well as soccer and marathons seem to have more of these events associated,” Johri told Global News.
Men were also more likely to have cardiac arrests than women, he added.
Emergency screening and protocol
In August 2013, Canadian teenager Jordan Boyd died suddenly while attending training camp for the New Brunswick Acadie-Bathurst Titan team, when he collapsed on the ice. He was 16 years old.
Boyd’s condition was not diagnosed until after his death, when he was determined to have arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a rare inherited heart disease.
His parents told Global News they didn’t know it was in the family until Jordan died.
His father Stephen Boyd said if they had ever had the opportunity to do it again, they would have pushed for more in-depth heart screening for their son.
“As parents, don’t take your child’s health for granted,” he said. “What happened to Jordan was love at first sight. “
Boyd said the family later found out there was no functioning Automated External Defibrillator (AED) available at the rink, which could have saved their son’s life.
An AED is a portable electronic device used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest.
“You don’t have a second chance. You only have minutes, ”Boyd said.
Since Jordan’s death, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has stepped up its safety program by requiring that each team in the league have its own AED during team events and practices, that at least three staff members. be trained at all times in CPR and AED use.
They’ve also expanded their pre-training camp physical exam and medical quiz that all players must take to include more in-depth questions about cardiac screening.
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Since many heart conditions can often go unnoticed even after testing, experts are torn about the value of regular heart screening for athletes.
Besides the enormous cost and burden on the healthcare system, it can also lead to large numbers of people being falsely identified as being at higher risk, Goodman said.
“It’s so impractical to do full cardiovascular screening on young athletes,” he said.
In 2019, 24-year-old runner Patrick Neely died after collapsing as he neared the end of the half-marathon – a 21.1-kilometer race – during the Oasis Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal International Marathon. .
A coroner’s report on the death noted that there was a severe lack of volunteers along the route, that it took paramedics nearly 10 minutes to arrive after the police called and Neely was taken to the nearest hospital rather than equipped to deal with the problems stopping patients.
A few years ago, Johri helped lead a national effort to write Canada’s first screening guidelines for varsity athletes for the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
While some screening can be helpful, he argues that it’s essential to have good emergency protocols in place, including CPR and AED, so players and team staff are well. prepared for cardiac arrest.
Athletes, who often become coaches, also need to be aware of the risks of sudden cardiac arrests and what to do in an emergency.
Goodman said it’s also up to athletes to listen to their bodies and know when to relax if they’re not feeling well.
– With files from the Canadian Press