The whole sporting world could have been thrown into a state of mourning when Denmark midfielder, Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during his nation’s opening match versus Finland at Euro 2020 in Copenhagen. The incident which happened in the 43rd minute saw the Inter Milan player stumble to the floor as Thomas Delaney his teammate, aimed a throw-in at him. The horrifying situation necessitated the use of CPR after captain Simon Kjaer had heroically cleared his airways before the arrival of the medical team to the scene.
The medical team used a defibrillator to resuscitate Eriksen on the pitch and he was conscious as he was carried off on a stretcher and transported from Parken Stadium – where fans were chanting Eriksen’s name – to a nearby hospital where the 29-year old underwent an operation to implant a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which is a type of pacemaker which can prevent fatal cardiac arrests by discharging a jolt to restore a regular heart rhythm.
Indeed the world is today rejoicing at the miraculous comeback to the life of Christian Eriksen, particularly after team doctor, Morten Boesen confirmed that the player was gone before the cardiac resuscitation. All thanks to advancements in medics and technology, a soul was brought back from the jaws of death. This however is bringing us back to Nigeria, our focal point for today. What would have become the fate of the player had it happened in the Nigerian league? What are the provisions for medical emergencies in our football setting? Do we have trained CPR specialists?
Well, rewind to March 2020, Nasarawa United’s Chineme Martins passed away after collapsing on the field during a Nigeria Premier Professional League match against Katsina United.
The player went down after a collision with an opposing player while the clash was still goalless. The ambulance which was stationed at the stadium reportedly failed to start after Martins was rushed off the pitch, causing a delay in seeking medical treatment for the player.
It is understood he was later taken to hospital in a press vehicle, but medics failed to revive him and he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
That is a case of avoidable death. Investigations revealed that despite the presence of a defibrillator, it was not deployed. A situation later confirmed by the Nasarawa United team doctor, Abdul Suberu, who affirmed that the defibrillator was no longer working. The most surprising if not upsetting news is that in December 2018 at the same Lafia Township Stadium, Dominic Dukudod, a player of FC Abuja, died during their friendly match against the same Nasarawa United.
Midway through the game, it was reported, the FC Abuja player, Dukudod, slumped on the field while all efforts to revive him failed with Dukudod – who suffered what is believed to have been a heart-related issue – died as he was being rushed to the hospital.
Despite the availability of a defibrillator in the stadium, eye-witnesses do not recall the device, which can restart a heart in case of sudden cardiac arrest, being used to treat the player. So there was even unfortunate precedence before the sad event that claimed the life of Chieme Martins.
Following the tragedy, the NFF swiftly announced stricter measures: that no match could start without a full complement of medical equipment and personnel, and not until all facilities had been tested by both the Match Commissioner and local State FA.
Nasarawa themselves were also sanctioned – fined just over $15,000 – for breaching a host of rules, from not acquiring the sufficient numbers of doctors and paramedics for the game, allowing too many people on the field mid-crisis, and procuring a non-operational ambulance.
Rubbing salt in the Martins family’s wounds was the fact that Nasarawa’s next home game featured not one fully-equipped modern ambulance – but three.
This is exactly the situation that led former footballer Fabrice Muamba, to call for defibrillators to become a legal requirement in all public places. The former Bolton Wanderers midfielder also suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during an FA Cup quarter-final in 2012. His heart stopped for 78 minutes but he recovered after medics administered 26 defibrillator shocks on him.
This is calling on the appropriate authorities to look into Christian Eriksen’s near-death experience and do the needful back home. A stitch in time saves nine.
Meanwhile, commendations to Denmark for coming back after two defeats to beat Russia in their last group game thereby finishing 2nd in the group. They became the first team to lose their first two group games yet qualify for the next round. Kudos to the team psychologists and Denmark FA.
Follow the writer on Twitter and Instagram @woleopatola.
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