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Wednesday, 21 August 2019 - 11.42 am

Sudden Cardiac Death in Young People

James Stemp U14 Hawks Manager

James Stemp
U14 Hawks Manager

I recently attended the Club’s Emergency First Aid course to refresh my FA Level 1 badge.

Inevitably the subject of resuscitation in response to sudden cardiac arrest cropped up, together with some interesting insights regarding the use of defibrillators by voluntary sports clubs such as ours.

The importance of the subject was reinforced by our tutor that evening, who had personal experience of working alongside Fabrice Muamba.  Muamba, you may recall, suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised FA Cup match between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur in March 2012.  His heart stopped beating for 78 minutes and it was only because of the speed and proximity of trained medical staff that his life was saved.

Since my EFA course, the football world has of course witnessed several similar incidents, involving professional players who were less fortunate than Muamba.  Two Belgian players, Gregory Mertens and Tim Nicot, both in their early twenties, died on the pitch after suffering sudden and unexpected cardiac arrests.

Earlier this week, I listened to a really interesting BBC 5 Live Sport Special podcast on sudden cardiac death in young people – you can listen for yourself: BBC 5 Live Sport Special Sudden Cardiac Death in Young People.  One of those you will hear from in the short podcast is Stephanie Hunter speaking to John Inverdale, a team mate of her former husband Howard, who died during rugby training in 1993 while on the pitch alongside John.  She also recalls the moment she was told her son had died from the same heart defect 11 years later at just 15.

The podcast highlights the lack of screening for both professional and amateur sportsmen and women in the UK.  In Italy, mandatory screening of young people engaged in organised sport has reduced the incidence of sudden cardiac death by 90%.

So, where does this leave us?  Apparently, 12 young people die suddenly every week from undiagnosed cardiac disease.  It is thought that 1 in 300 people have an underlying cardiac issue that playing sport can exacerbate.  I think that this whole area doesn’t get the attention it undoubtedly deserves.

I for one have discussed the screening of all my sons with my wife and we are looking at the charity CRY – Cardiac Risk in the Young for guidance.  A lot of screenings are free but some you have to pay for – even so, it’s only £35.00 for an ECG and echocardiogram, both of which are painless, non-invasive procedures.

I am passionate about this subject and would love to both promote awareness amongst parents and players within Worplesdon Rangers FC.  I am certainly not trying to scare anyone but to highlight a problem that we at grass roots level shouldn’t ignore and assume ‘it will never happen to me’.

Please post your comments/thoughts by way of response…

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